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Penn State's O'Brien would welcome return of Pitt rivalry

Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Penn State's new head football coach Bill O'Brien coaches during the Blue-White scrimmage at Beaver Stadium in University Park on April 21, 2012.

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Football coach Bill O'Brien will speak at the Omni William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh along with women's hockey coach Josh Brandwene on May 14 at 6 p.m. It is part of a seven-state, 18-stop Penn State Coaches Caravan put together by Penn State's alumni association and the Nittany Lions Club. Men's hockey coach Guy Gadowsky and men's volleyball coach Mark Pavlik will also attend.

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Scott Brown
Friday, May 4, 2012, 7:36 p.m.

Pitt and Penn State are set to resume a once-storied football rivalry in 2016.

If new Nittany Lions coach Bill O'Brien has anything to say about it, the archrivals will meet more than just the two times they agreed to last year during a thaw in relations between the two programs.

“I would love to see that game played on an annual basis,” O'Brien told the Tribune-Review on Friday. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for (Pitt coach) Paul Chryst and their program, and that's a great rivalry. For the fans of Pennsylvania to be able to see that game every year, I think that's pretty neat.”

Not that anything is simple when it comes to the rivalry that once was one of the preeminent ones in college football.

The schools haven't met since 2000, and they haggled over terms of scheduling after Penn State accepted an invitation to join the Big Ten in 1991. Pitt, a member of the Big East, moves to the ACC next year.

Like Penn State, Pitt has a limited number of openings on its schedule for nonconference opponents. Penn State has traditionally scheduled an extra home game per season since its football program largely underwrites the school's athletic department.

The schools will stage a home-and-home series later this decade with Penn State visiting Heinz Field in 2016, and Pitt traveling to Beaver Stadium the following season.

“I think it should be an annual rivalry,” said O'Brien, who was hired by Penn State on Jan. 6. “I think it's about both schools wanting to do it and making it happen.”

O'Brien has more immediate concerns than the Pitt-Penn State rivalry.

The former New England Patriots offensive coordinator has to pick a starting quarterback after Matt McGloin, Rob Bolden and Sto-Rox graduate Paul Jones competed for the job this spring. O'Brien said he anticipates naming two finalists in a couple of weeks and having them compete for the starting job during preseason practice.

Penn State's assistant coaches have been on the road recruiting since the conclusion of spring practice two weeks ago. O'Brien said he wants to meet with some of those coaches before making a decision on the quarterback position.

“I'm not a big two-quarterback guy,” O'Brien said. “If another guy can help us in certain areas, then we'll do it, but for the most part we'll be a one-quarterback team.”

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

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