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The ‘Backyard Brawl’: WVU, Pittsburgh to maintain rivalry

By Staff | Jun 26, 2020

WVU's Coliseum is pictured here with a full crowd in 2017. Courtesy photo

SHEPHERDSTOWN — It seems the grass isn’t greener than that growing in the “Backyard.”

More basketball games are coming, in the rivalry known as the “Backyard Brawl.”

It’s a nickname applied to the West Virginia vs. Pittsburgh rivalry that numerous Mountaineer fans see as fuel to the competitive fires that brews within them.

The Mountaineers and Panthers just signed a two-year extension to the historic rivalry.

Pitt was already coming to Morgantown this Nov. 13 for a game. But without a two-year extension, that would have been the final game in the mostly raucous rivalry.

Now there will be additional games in the 2021-2022 season and the 2022-2023 campaign.

The Panthers have lost the last four games with the Mountaineers to keep anybody from Pittsburgh from hollering about the bygone days of Brian Generalovich, Sam Clancy, Jerome Lane, Charles Smith and Mike Ditka, or coaches Buzz Ridl and Jamie Dixon.

Even though his tenure at Pitt isn’t a long one, Coach Jeff Capel hasn’t beaten a single Bob Huggins team.

When the teams have met recently at the Petersen Center in Pittsburgh, the games have been sold out. The same can be said for the “brawls” at the Coliseum in Morgantown.

West Virginia’s last game ever played at the historic Field House by the river was an ear-shattering win over the mostly-abhored Panthers.

Several of the matches through the years have been body-against-body scraps, with even a fight or two breaking out on the floor.

When WVU-Pitt games were staged at the Fitzgerald Field House in Pittsburgh or The Field House in Morgantown, the crowds were within today’s social distancing regulations of the players on the court. Noise was often the winner or a close runner-up inside the student-packed saunas. There were those people who attended only one home game a year in either city . . . and that game was WVU vs. Pitt.

They were not genteel times. No love was lost. In fact, love couldn’t have been lost, because it was never present when the teams bumped elbows, shoulders, knuckles and hips.

Recent matches have been more “civilized,” with no mid-game skirmishes or brush-ups in the stands, where Pitt’s Oakland Zoo student body holds sway.

Both sides will see these games as a highlight of their non-conference schedules.

It’s not like going to the Bahamas or Mexico in November, but if you are confined to northern West Virginia or western Pennsylvania, you might as well get involved in the “Backyard Brawl.”