The West Virginia Mountaineers are going to open the 2017 season against the Virginia Tech Hokies at FedEx Field in Washington. The thought of renewing that old Big East rivalry and extending West Virginia’s 28-22-1 advantage in the all-time series with the Hokies is sure to bring some joy to West Virginia football fans hearts, and in that sense, adding the Hokies to the schedule was an excellent move.
However, the addition of one former Big East rival is also a reminder of what the schedule is missing.
The Big East rivalry that the Mountaineers need to restart is the one with the Pittsburgh Panthers. The Backyard Brawl needs to recommence as soon as possible. That game was the highlight of every Big East season towards the end of the conference’s existence, and the game was also extraordinarily unique because it was recognized nationally as one of the best rivalry games the sport had to offer.
Considering the lackluster conference that hosted the two teams at the time, the national respect that the game earned was a testament to how fierce that rivalry was.
But nostalgia isn’t the only reason for getting this done. Even playing in the Big 12, the Mountaineers still need to be able to recruit near their own campus. Right now, the Mountaineers’ schedule regularly takes them far away from Morgantown and their traditional recruiting trail. Pennsylvania has traditionally been an area that the Mountaineers have mined for talent, but since leaving the Big East, they haven’t played a game there.
And while Virginia is also important to the Mountaineers’ recruiting effort, a game with the Hokies won’t receive the same kind of attention that the re-ignition of the Backyard Brawl would command.
The Mountaineers have three openings for out-of-conference games every year. Pittsburgh should occupy one of those openings each season. Devoting a second opening to Virginia Tech would also be good, but Pitt should be the priority. The Backyard Brawl was a special rivalry, but each season that goes by without it on the schedule lets the fire die a little more. It’s time for the Mountaineers to stoke those flames and get their most important rivalry roaring again.