Pitt’s Pat Narduzzi shields players from reporters before Penn State game
Pat Narduzzi is feeding the prevailing perception that the Pitt/Penn State game is different from all others.
Just as he has done in the past (with one exception), the coach has shut off all contact between his players and the media in the week leading up to the Penn State game. It’s the only time all season he hands down such an edict. The regular half-hour viewing window at Tuesday’s practice also was canceled.
Last season, he allowed seniors Quintin Wirginis and Connor Dintino to speak to the media, but all other access was denied.
Pitt and No. 11 Penn State will meet for the 100th — and, possibly, final time — at noon Saturday at Beaver Stadium. The game will be televised nationally by ABC.
“I appreciate you guys. I love the media. I love you guys. You guys know that,” Narduzzi said Monday at his regularly scheduled weekly news conference. “I’ll do anything for you. It’s nothing against you guys.
“I want to keep things tight this week again, just kind of what we do when there’s a big opportunity.
“I’ll talk every day if you want to talk. But I just want to keep it tight with our kids and let them focus on what they need to focus on.”
The game Saturday is the last of a four-game series that began in 2016 with Pitt’s 42-39 victory. Before that, the series was on a 15-year hiatus from 2001-15, with Pitt in the Big East and Penn State in the Big Ten.
Penn State holds a 52-43-4 all-time edge, including 33-14 and 51-6 victories the past two seasons.
At one time, Pitt-Penn State was one of the most anticipated and heated rivalries in college football. Pitt has proposed extending the series beyond this season, but the schools were unable to come to an agreement.
Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour has said the schools might need to look beyond 2030 to schedule the next series.
The problem is complicated by Penn State’s nine-game schedule within the Big Ten. Pitt only plays eight ACC games.
Penn State will play one nonconference Power 5 opponent in each of the next four seasons: Virginia Tech, Auburn (twice) and West Virginia. It also has scheduled Nevada, San Jose State, Ball State, Villanova, Ohio, Central Michigan, Delaware and UMass.
Likewise, Pitt has looked elsewhere for nonconference foes, scheduling Western Michigan, Cincinnati and Wisconsin (twice each) into the next decade.
Plus, Pitt and West Virginia will resume the Backyard Brawl with a four-game series from 2022-25. Pitt has played West Virginia more often than Penn State — 104 times — but the teams haven’t met since 2011. Pitt leads the series, which began in 1895, 61-40-3.
Nonetheless, Narduzzi believes Pitt/Penn State should resume at some point.
“Everybody in the state of Pennsylvania who is not sitting in a football office somewhere in the state would say, ‘Hey, why don’t we play this game?’ ” he said.
“We all want to play this game. It’s a big game. It’s another game for us, but it’s a big game because it’s a rivalry game in-state.
“I’m going to emphasize with our kids you might be the last (Pitt) team to ever get to play this game. Might be. I don’t know.”
Narduzzi, 53, said the next time Pitt and Penn State meet after Saturday, “I’m either going to be in a coffin or retired.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .