MORGANTOWN - With West Virginia's official exit from the Big East now plainly in sight, perhaps the most intriguing question that does not concern the Mountaineers' new home in the Big 12 is this:
What happens to the Backyard Brawl?
West Virginia and Pitt have played 104 times in football, including every season since 1943. The only time the teams took a break after 1919, in fact, was three years between 1940 and 1942.
In basketball, the rivalry has been non-stop since the 1917-18 season. It began in 1904, and when the teams meet in Pittsburgh Thursday night it will be the 184th meeting.
In football, the series will certainly die, at least for a while. In basketball, though, don't count on it ending.
"You would think so,'' WVU basketball coach Bob Huggins said Tuesday when asked if his team would face Pitt in future seasons. "But honestly I don't know.''
He has a feeling, though.
"Honestly, I'd be kind of shocked [if it ended],'' Huggins said. "I mean, we've been playing since 1904. We're all looking for good non-conference games.''
Indeed, the WVU-Pitt basketball series has survived changing conferences before. Most recently, Pitt left the Eastern 8 in 1982 for the Big East, while WVU stayed with the same core teams to form the Atlantic 10. Despite the shift, West Virginia and Pitt alternated home games each year until the Mountaineers joined Pitt in the Big East in 1995.
So there will be talks.
"I want to talk to Jamie [Dixon, Pitt's coach] about it when the season is over,'' Huggins said. "Obviously now isn't the time.''
As for the football rivalry, that's a bit more difficult to schedule. The game will certainly not be played in 2012 because while Pitt is still searching for two more games, WVU's schedule is full. In fact, West Virginia's schedule is overloaded by one game for at least the next several years because of the move from the Big East to the Big 12 and a change from a seven-game league schedule to a nine-game conference slate.
West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck didn't discount the possibility of games sometime in the future, though.
"We've had a tremendous rivalry with Pittsburgh in all of our sports,'' Luck said Tuesday. "Pitt's going through a lot of change with its imminent joining of the Atlantic Coast Conference and they're going to nine conference games. It'll be difficult to schedule, but I would certainly welcome a conversation with Steve Pederson [Pitt's athletic director] once Steve has a handle on what they want to do with their non-conference schedule.