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‘If it’s the Right Thing to Do …’: Penn State HC James Franklin Discusses Chances of Pitt Rivalry Game’s Return

PSU coach James Franklin talks with Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi before last year's game at Beaver Stadium.

Penn State and Pitt won’t play this year.

Or next year.

Or the year after that.

Or the… well, hopefully you get it by now.

Until the two in-state rivals play again, people debate.

It’s likely Pitt fans generally want to play Penn State every year or at least once in a while. Penn State fans don’t seem to care as much, again generally speaking.

Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi was asked his thoughts days before both teams began their 2023 seasons, and he spoke his mind.

Penn State coach James Franklin was asked a similar question on his second Thursday radio show of 2023, and he spoke his.

A fan asked Franklin what the chances were of Penn State getting Pitt, West Virginia and Syracuse back on the schedule.

Penn State plays West Virginia in Morgantown to open next season and plays Syracuse again in 2027, but nobody knows when it will play Pitt again.

Franklin said the future of these games depend on if those out of conference matchups can be worked around the respective conference schedules.

“The more conference games you play and the less regional the conferences are, then those games become more and more challenging,” Franklin said. “And you have to see ‘do they make sense?’”

The fan responded to Franklin by saying that these regional games help Penn State fill Beaver Stadium.

Franklin responded.

“That shouldn’t dictate whether we play them,” he said. “If its the right thing to do for our conference, if it’s the right thing to do for Penn State, than I’m more than open to doing it. I think our ADs can get on a conversation, get on a call and talk about it.”

Franklin then went into the Pitt series— which has been on hold since 2019– and mentioned the differences in when Penn State came to Pittsburgh compared to Pitt coming to Happy Valley.

“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,” Franklin 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. To me, it needs to be an even exchange and it needs to make sense. But I think our ADs should get on the phone and work it out.”

When Narduzzi addressed the matter, he spoke highly of Penn State AD Pat Kraft, calling him a “great guy.”

Narduzzi worked in the same conference as Kraft when Kraft was Boston College’s AD from 2020 through starting at Penn State in July 2022.

Narduzzi wasn’t as complimentary toward Franklin in the same interview, conducted by Pittsburgh’s 93.7 The Fan.

Hosts Andrew Fillipponi and Chris Mueller of the “PM Team” interviewed the coach, and Fillipponi asked Narduzzi why Pitt and Penn State don’t play.

Narduzzi has his feelings on the matter, as well as who he feels is to blame for Pitt and Penn State not playing.

“You’d have to ask James Franklin,” Narduzzi said.

Fillipponi then asked Narduzzi if he felt Franklin was the one who made that call.

Narduzzi believes that he is.

So if it were Narduzzi’s call, how would things be?

“My call is ‘let’s go.’ he said. “We’ve called, we’ve asked.”

Franklin then said that Penn State’s “new AD,” Pat Kraft, could “maybe get it done.”

“I have faith in Pat Kraft, the AD,” Narduzzi said.

But Narduzzi doesn’t feel optimistic that the rivalry will return.

“These schedules are filled out for six, seven years (in advance)” Narduzzi said. “It’s going to be a while. I’ll be retired for 10 years, 20 years. I’ll be 70, 80 years old. I’ll be coming back in a wheelchair and maybe a cane.”

 

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