One of the nation's most curiously dormant in-state rivalries is set to renew again, as Penn State announced Tuesday that it would resume its series with Pittsburgh in 2016.
The Nittany Lions are scheduled to play at Pitt's Heinz Field on Sept. 10, 2016 and then host the Panthers on Sept. 16, 2017. No further dates have been set.
It's a happy day for Keystone Staters, who haven't seen the two most prominent Pennsylvania programs play since 2000, when Pitt won 12-0 in Three Rivers Stadium.
"We are very excited about renewing our rivalry with Pitt," Penn State athletic director Tim Curley said in an official statement from the school. "We have worked our schedules to play some of our neighboring rivalries like Syracuse, Rutgers and Temple and are glad to have identified dates that worked for our schedules to play Pitt. The Penn State-Pitt game was one that football fans across the Commonwealth have been passionate about. There have been many memorable Penn State-Pitt games, featuring outstanding players and coaches, and we look forward to playing the Panthers again."
This is the longest-running series in Penn State history, as the two teams have met 96 times, including every season from 1935-1992. They took a break when Penn State joined the Big Ten, but then resumed with a four-game series from 1997-2000. The Nittany Lions own a 50-42-4 advantage.
Why haven't the two teams played in more than a decade? Depends on whom you ask. Pitt people say they never wanted the series to end, but that Penn State was demanding a 2-for-1 or 3-for-2 deal with more games being played at Beaver Stadium. Head coach Joe Paterno said in a 2007 interview that he would only be in favor of playing Pittsburgh if it were on terms beneficial to Penn State. Pitt fans were convinced that the rivalry would remain dormant until Paterno retired -- and who's to say he won't still be around in 2016?
Regardless, the series is back on, at least for a two-year window. And that's a good thing, because this rivalry has far too much history and makes way too much sense geographically for it to not to occur. It should be a home-and-home series, too. Hopefully this is a game that we can look forward annually beyond 2017.