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Penn State acting AD open to extending Pitt football series

| Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Dave Joyner echoed Steve Pederson's sentiments that Pitt and Penn State should play each other in football on a regular basis, though talks are in the preliminary stages.

Joyner, Penn State's acting athletic director, told the Tribune-Review on Friday he hopes to visit Pederson in Pittsburgh during the football season. Any face-to-face discussions wouldn't be just about resuming the once-great rivalry, but Joyner acknowledged it would be a significant part of his visit.

“There certainly is a philosophical meeting of the minds,” Joyner said. “It would be very interesting to look to see if we can make it happen, to have more games in the future,”

The teams are scheduled to play in 2016 and '17. They have met 96 times, though not since 2000, when Pitt beat Penn State, 12-0, at Three Rivers Stadium.

Penn State coach Bill O'Brien has said he would like to play Pitt on a steady basis. Pederson, Pitt's athletics director, said he would “love” to play Penn State every year.

Penn State is locked into eight Big Ten games a season, giving it four contests against nonconference opponents. Pitt joins the ACC next season and will play nine conference games a season.

Pitt may lose two of the three games it has scheduled with Notre Dame in 2014-16 due to the Fighting Irish's commitment to play five ACC teams a year beginning in 2014. That could create space on the schedule for Pitt to play Penn State, if the Nittany Lions also have room on their upcoming slates.

“I'm happy to look at any possibilities, without guaranteeing anything,” Joyner said. “There's a lot of factors that would fit into it.”

Penn State plays its third nonconference game of the season Saturday when Navy visits Beaver Stadium. The Nittany Lions drew 97,000 fans for their season opener two weeks ago, leaving about 10,000 empty seats in Beaver Stadium.

Joyner said he has been pleased with fan support in the wake of NCAA sanctions levied against the football program, and he expects roughly 100,000 fans for the 3:30 p.m. game against Navy.

“They like the product on the field,” Joyner said. “No matter what the win-loss record, it's very entertaining. People like seeing it, and I think that's going to translate into pretty good fan support.”

O'Brien praised Penn State fans Thursday on his weekly radio show and plans to get out on campus more to express his appreciation.

“It's unbelievable,” the first-year coach said. “It's hard to describe.”

O'Brien is still looking for his first win as a head coach. Despite Penn State's 0-2 record, Joyner said O'Brien has been everything Penn State thought he would be.

“Bill's very engaged with the (fan) base; he's very, very good at relating to people,” Joyner said. “He's very bright, and he can communicate really well, so he's been a very big hit here. Even at 0-2, he's extremely popular and is doing a very good job, and it will translate to the field, no question, as time goes on.”

Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com.

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