Bill O'Brien has only been the head coach at Penn State for a few short months, and though at times he seems like a natural for the position, there are points where it's quite obvious he hasn't spent much time in Happy Valley.
One such instance is when he recently discussed the on again, off again rivalry with Pitt, and how open he'd be to bringing the series back:
“I would love to see that game played on an annual basis,” O’Brien told the Tribune-Review on Friday. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for (Pitt 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.”
On its face, that's a completely reasonable statement to make. Since it's a game that doesn't get played very often, there's obviously more to the story. And as you might guess, it's money.
Kevin McGuire breaks down the financial situation of the rivalry here. The long and short of it is that Penn State enjoys home games. It was long Joe Paterno's belief that unless Penn State got two home games for every one home Pitt game--basically the same arrangement PSU gets with, say, Temple--it wouldn't be worth losing the home game and ticket sales.
That's probably all true. It's also enormously disrespectful to Pitt and the people of Pennsylvania who want to see the game to even think that way in the first place.
Rivalries don't exist for the purpose of directly maximizing revenue.
They exist for the sake of fans in the area, ones who enjoy building a sense of community around their own team--and against another team. It's for having that game played on equal footing*, either with one home game apiece or at a neutral site every year.
That's what makes college football great, and if Joe Paterno disagreed with that, well, he was on the wrong side of that particular issue. It happens. Two home games to one under the auspices of taking care of finance isn't in the spirit of a rivalry, it's a cynical business decision.
College football is about more than counting money at the end of the day; it's about taking on challenges as directly as possible. Penn State's athletic department should better understand that and get this rivalry rebooted on an annual basis as soon as possible.
*Or whatever's closest to equal footing, anyway. The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is held in Jacksonville and thus much closer to Florida than Georgia, but whatever, like Albany State is going to be able to hold the game instead?