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Hello, Wisconsin! Pitt, Big Ten Power agree to home-and-home series

Jerry DiPaola
| Thursday, May 24, 2018, 10:21 a.m.
Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst reacts after a call was overturned on an instant review during the first half of an NCAA college football game against the Michigan Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst reacts after a call was overturned on an instant review during the first half of an NCAA college football game against the Michigan Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Making a move she all but promised earlier this year, Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke on Thursday announced a home-and-home football series with a school other than Penn State.

After Penn State showed no willingness to renew the Pitt series that expires next year with the 100th game between the longtime rivals, Lyke told reporters she had a Plan B.

Plan B became a reality Thursday when Pitt announced a two-game series with Wisconsin in 2026 and 2027. First game on Sept. 19, 2026, at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison; second game Sept. 11, 2027, at Heinz Field.

Here are three thoughts about Pitt, Penn State and Wisconsin and the former two schools' scheduling difficulties.

1. Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour said earlier this month that her school is looking beyond 2030 before the Pitt series might be renewed.

Unfortunate? Absolutely.

The game should be played every year; Pitt, through three athletic directors, has shown it wants the game, largely because it puts people in seats (a total of nearly 180,000 the past two years).But the fact is that Penn State officials don't care about the rivalry as much as many fans on both sides do.

Even with the schools' separate conference affiliations, the series could have been renewed. But Penn State looked elsewhere, which is its right. Many people may not like it, but fans don't get a vote.

And, please, let's cease with the calls to get state government involved. It's none of Pennsylvania's business, and state politicians have more important business than football.

2. Both schools have scheduled compelling games over the next several seasons, within and outside the conference.

Pitt has Notre Dame at home in 2020 (the same year its ACC crossover opponent is Florida State on the road). The following season, Pitt is at Tennessee and home to Clemson.

And check out 2022: West Virginia and Tennessee at home in the first two games of the season, Louisville on the road.

Pitt also plays West Virginia and Notre Dame in the same seasons in 2023 and 2025. The '23 games are both away from Heinz Field.

While Pitt only has eight ACC obligations every year, Penn State must play nine Big Ten games. That's a significant difference, but Penn State still has scheduled home-and-home games with Virginia Tech, Auburn and West Virginia through 2025.

3. Pitt's decision to turn to Wisconsin is a good one. The Badgers are one of the best teams in the Big Ten, and the schools have been apart too long.

Their most recent game was Pitt 13, Wisconsin 11 in 1967, the Panthers' only victory that season under coach Dave Hart. They also met in 1937 (when Pitt won a national championship) and 1938. Pitt won them both.

The only question remains is this: Will we see Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst back in Pittsburgh in 2027? The educated guess here is yes.

Chryst, who spent three seasons at Pitt, has been a rousing success back at his alma mater, compiling a 34-7 record and reaching two Big Ten Championship games in three years (both losses).

Eight years is a long time in college football, but Chryst loves to coach, and he'll only be 61 in 2026.

See you then, Paul.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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