It's rare that I feel confident I can speak to the sentiments of the entire West Virginia University fan base, but this is one of those occasions. So allow me to join the chorus of people thanking you for working together with WVU AD Shane Lyons to bring about the renewal of the Backyard Brawl series.
The modern era of college football, as you well know, has seen the continued erosion of the tradition which serves as the bedrock of the sport's popularity. Texas no longer plays Texas A&M. Nebraska and Oklahoma don't face one another. Ditto Kansas and Missouri. And while your own school has Penn State back on its schedule in the near future, that series has been essentially dormant for the better part of 23 years.
While conference realignment has padded the budgets of the athletic departments on the better end of such moves (hardly insignificant, I know, as much of your job revolves around generating the funds to compete in the seemingly unending arms race that is high-level intercollegiate athletics), it has also cost us so much of the regional flavor that made this particular sport compelling in the first place.
It is inarguable that both Pitt and West Virginia made the proper moves for their respective athletics departments by moving from the withering Big East to their current homes within the ACC and Big 12, respectively. But while time will eventually make for new rivalries in these conferences, I'm sure your fanbase has found some of the emotion missing from football Saturdays. Playing games against Duke and Virginia doesn't bring the same passion out of Pitt fans that the Brawl did. Similarly, WVU's games against Kansas and Iowa State just can't compare to what once was.
It is easy to find reasons not to play these games anymore. Both of our schools are in tougher conferences now, and the wins necessary to earn major bowl berths are harder to come by. In Pitt's case, playing West Virginia does nothing to forge ground in talent-rich recruiting areas. It seems that some other schools across the country have allowed mere stubborn pride to get in the way of scheduling an old rival.
I credit you for not falling into the trap of thinking that football scheduling is a zero-sum game, in which every decision must be examined under a microscope and every conceivable so-called "benefit" squeezed out of each game. So many of your contemporaries around the country seem to forget that they work in what is essentially an entertainment industry. Sometimes, the games need to be about fun. The Backyard Brawl is historic. It brings out the passion in the fanbases of both universities. It is, at the risk of oversimplifying things, fun. For me, that is reason enough to play this series.
I'll be candid: I don't like Pitt. I've never liked Pitt. If your football program never won another game, I'd likely drown in a deep pool of schadenfreude. But I know that college football -- both nationally and regionally -- is infinitely more compelling when my alma mater faces Pitt on the football field. So I thank you for doing something that (at least seven years from now) will make college football more enjoyable for so many of us. Thank you for respecting a tradition that dates back to 1895. Thank you for not feeling compelled to toss aside the shared history of our respective schools.
Thanks for doing your part to bring back the Brawl. And if you're still around in 2023, feel free to stop by for a beer and a pepperoni roll.
Montani Semper Liberi,