WVU, Pitt Hopeful for Brawl's Future - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

WVU, Pitt Hopeful for Brawl's Future

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NEW YORK -

It is difficult to imagine a WVU season, in any sport really, not including a conference matchup with Pittsburgh.

When the Panthers leave the Big East and begin competition in the ACC, the Backyard Brawl will no longer be an automatic feature on the schedule.

"I can't imagine that we wouldn't play," says Huggins. "If we don't, we don't."

For Huggins, this is nothing new. In his time coaching, he's watched as countless teams that have been considered rivals are dropped from the agenda for one reason or another.

He's also seen the type of rivalry that warrants an annual meeting. He believes Duquesne is one of those and so is Pitt.

The players agree with him, as do the fans and probably just about everyone associated with each program.

"Pitt leaving to the ACC, that's the Backyard Brawl. That's one thing that's down the drain already," says WVU guard Truck Bryant. "That was something that the fans looked forward to, but now there will be a new rivalry going on."

Something about the Brawl is special to those involved. Replacing it with just any other rivalry wouldn't have the same allure.

"I think it's really important, just because everybody in the city of Pittsburgh always talks about West Virginia," says Panthers guard Ashton Gibbs.  I'm pretty sure it's like that in West Virginia as well about Pittsburgh. The Backyard Brawl is something that definitely sells tickets and I think the players look forward to it as well."

But Bryant and Gibbs, both seniors, would only ever experience an out-of-conference Brawl if they were to return to support their alma mater or if they turned on the television to watch. It won't impact these student-athletes, though it will certainly be an issue for their coaches.

"I'm on the outside looking in just because I'm not going to play in the ACC," says Gibbs. "I'm not really too sure about it, but at the same time, I'm pretty sure Pitt is going to conduct themselves well and if they're in the ACC or the Big East, we're going to compete hard."

Asked for his thoughts on continuing the rivalry, Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon said he wasn't so sure his school would be the only one of the two leaving the Big East.

"Where they end up, if you can let me know on that, what conference they're going to be in. If you'll give me the insight on that, I can answer your question," Dixon said with a smile.

"I'm sure there's going to be talks about it. We'll see when the time comes," he added. "I'm sure we'll be looking forward to the opportunity to play each other. The game's been important to us, but it'll be discussed when the time comes."

The clear consensus between the two involved parties is to keep the Brawl alive, but even if they do, it will be losing some of what makes it special, which is the implications it can have on conference championships.

"It's a tradition that's been around way before I got here or anybody else. It's been around for so long and you need that," says WVU forward Kevin Jones, also in his senior year. "It's something special that it brings the fans together. It's just going to suck that it's not going to be around for very much longer. I'm of course going to be coming back watching games and watching games on TV and it's just not going to be the same Big East that I played in."

Huggins has been around this game for quite some time, though. He knows that rivals can come in all shapes and sizes and for all different reasons.

He has a reason he'd like to add to the list that would ensure the Mountaineers are never short on rivals.

"When you win, everybody wants to beat you, so everybody's your rival," says Huggins. "Our charge is to continue to win, we'll have a lot of rivals."

 

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