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Ben State Football: Media Access Battle Sums Up Rivalry

by on September 06, 2017 2:20 PM

Lots of words have already been written this week about Penn State's upcoming meeting with Pitt. It's a clash of two historic programs, the second game in a renewed rivalry series. The Panthers' defeat of Penn State was one of the two losses that kept the Nittany Lions out of the playoffs.

The narratives go on and on.

But nothing has really been written about more than the media access. Or really the lack thereof. Pitt, for the second straight year, has opted to close to doors to its program as it prepares for the game.

I wish I cared.

Professionally, sure, I feel for those who cover Pitt and are just trying to do their jobs. It's effectively the biggest game of the season and the best story anyone can get quotes from is Pat Narduzzi trying to contextualize the need to focus as if the Manhattan Project 2.0 is taking place on Pitt's field this week.

Beating Clemson though? Interview away.

Halfway across the state you've got Penn State and James Franklin who didn't do anything different this week other than take a thinly veiled shot at Narduzzi for saying Pitt was the underdog last season despite being the favorite in every corner of Vegas. It's interesting, but the gamesmanship doesn't go beyond just that.

"I'm not going to talk about one game differently than another," James Franklin said of the program's media access. "I'm not going to exclude the media. Whoever comes to the press conference will get to interact with me and the players. Whoever comes to practice will get a chance to interact with whoever we have assigned to interact with the media that day.

"....I think that's what most people ask for in life is they want consistency in behaviors, and that's what we're going to do. We're probably not always going to make every single one of you guys happy with every one of your requests and all your wants and all your needs, but you know what you're going to get with us week in and week out. Now, that's how we choose to run our organization. He's got the ability to run his organization however he sees fit. Some programs, I've been a part of them, they have a one-voice policy all the time where you never hear from anybody but the head coach. I think that's how the Patriots do it. It's a one-voice deal. You never talk to the assistants."

"Everybody kind of has their ability to run their organization, their program the way they see best, but just with us, it's not going to change week to week."

And in the end this really summarizes the series perfectly. Two programs, one that objectively benefits from it far more than the other, playing a series that nobody really cares that much about below the age of 55 and a series that will almost certainly end with more than a few people getting hit with beer bottles because somehow this is a good way to prove how manly you are.

The most dramatic story going into the series, media access, something that at the end of the day nobody cares about. On paper there is no compelling reason to think Pitt will win and not a lot of reasons to think that will change in the next two years. The revenge factor isn't even really there for Penn State because the Nittany Lions won the Big Ten and made the Rose Bowl. It's water under the bridge after a wildly successful season.

No crazy quotes, no war of words, not even a real compelling story on the field beyond an increasingly irrelevant history. People are excited almost out of obligation.

The point isn't that Pitt and Penn State aren't rivals, because at the end of the day they are. They play in the same state and recruit for the same kids. It's only natural to have tension there.

My point is that this series isn't worth renewing if the status of interview requests is the best it has to offer.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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