Bill O'Brien wants Pitt-Penn State rivalry back as annual series

The frosty relations between former bitter rivals between Pitt and Penn State finally thawed in 2011, as the Panthers and Nittany Lions agreed to renew their classic series -- first played in 1893, and 96 more times since -- in a single home-and-home starting in 2016.

But if new Nittany Lions head coach Bill O'Brien has his way, those thawed relations could become outright warm. O'Brien told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Friday that if it was up to him, the teams would begin playing each other on a year-in, year-out basis once again.

“I think it should be an annual rivalry,” O’Brien said. “I think it’s about both schools wanting to do it and making it happen ... I have a tremendous amount of respect for (new Pitt head 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.”

"Neat" as it unquestionably would be, arranging for a yearly meeting between the Panthers and Lions is much easier said -- particularly by a first-year coach with O'Brien's brand of optimism -- than done. Both schools already have nine games on their future schedules accounted for, with Pitt moving to the ACC's nine-game league schedule beginning in 2013 and the Nittany Lions combining the Big Ten's likely eight-game slate with its annual Pac-12 nonconference matchup starting in 2017. 

Those hurdles come in addition to the ones that have already kept the two teams apart every year since 2000, the usual scapegoat being Penn State's ambivalence towards making the series an annual event.

O'Brien's willingness to embrace the rivalry is no doubt a step in the right direction, as is the '16-'17 home-and-home. But there's many, many more steps to go before O'Brien's vision becomes reality.

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