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James Franklin explains what it would take for Penn State to play Pitt again

Last week, Pat Narduzzi said, “You’d have to ask James Franklin” why Penn State and Pitt no longer play. Well, Franklin was asked last night, and he answered.



Penn State football, Pitt, James Franklin, Pat Narduzzi
Sep 8, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Pat Narduzzi (L) and Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin (R) shake hands after their game at Heinz Field. Penn State won 51-6. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, we watched Penn State football rekindle an old rivalry against West Virginia. The first leg of a home-and-home series, the matchup had many looking back on the Nittany Lions’ traditional rivalry opponents. Of course, you don’t have to look far for one of these rivals, as nearby Pitt is often cited as a historic game that should be renewed. The discussion made headlines again last week when Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi took a veiled shot at James Franklin as the reason why the game is no longer played. Last night on his weekly radio show, the Penn State head coach responded to questions about renewing the rivalry with Pitt.

Pat Narduzzi says, “You’d have to ask James Franklin” why Penn State and Pitt don’t play

Although it wasn’t the epic battle that many hoped for when the series was renewed a decade ago, Nittany Lions fans had a blast from the past last weekend when Penn State defeated West Virginia 38-15 inside Beaver Stadium.

With the rivalry back for a short two-year window, many Penn State and local college football fans openly wondered what it would take for the Nittany Lions to renew annual matchups with top regional opponents. Many of these games, like yearly contests with West Virginia and Pitt, were lost when Penn State football joined the Big Ten in 1993.

These questions have recently worked their way up the college football ranks. When asked on a Pittsburgh radio show last week why Penn State and Pitt no longer play annually, Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi indicated the blame rests with his counterpart in Happy Valley. “You’d have to ask James Franklin that,” he said in response on 93.7 The Fan. “My call is ‘let’s go.’ We’ve called, we’ve asked.

Franklin explains what it would take for Penn State to play Pitt again

Well last night, Pat Narduzzi got his wish. On his weekly in-season radio show Thursday night, James Franklin was asked by a fan what it would take to get regional opponents like Pitt back on the annual schedule for Penn State.

“To me, it needs to be an even exchange, and it needs to make sense,” Franklin said. “But I think our ADs should get on the phone and work it out. I’ll tell them that it’s important to you, and we’ll see if it makes sense for both programs.”

Franklin went on to explain that with the Big Ten’s nine-game conference slate, scheduling annual non-conference games becomes more difficult.

“If it’s the right thing to do for our conference, if it’s the right thing to do for Penn State, then I’m more than open to doing it,” he said. “I think our ADs can get on a conversation, get on a call, and talk about it.”

However, James Franklin also noted that financially, Penn State has far less to benefit from an annual game with Pitt than its counterparts in western Pennsylvania.

“The thing I do know is, when we went and played at Pitt, it was the second-largest, if not the largest sporting event, in the history of Heinz Field,” he said. “And I don’t think you could buy a Penn State single-game ticket unless you bought their season tickets. So, it was a very different deal. For us, it was an increase of 2,000 fans.”

Penn State takes on Delaware in Week 2 action this Saturday at noon.

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Matt is a co-owner and Editor in Chief of Basic Blues Nation. Launched in 2022, Basic Blues Nation is one of the fastest-growing websites covering all Penn State athletics, with over 3.5 million readers in 2023. Matt is also a credentialed member of the Penn State football beat, and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.


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