"It's all about the past players. It's about tradition,'' WVU safeties coach Steve Dunlap said. "You don't get tradition in five or six years. It's over the long haul. You're talking about a hundred years. There's a lot of coaches and players that came before me. And we feel responsible to do our best and win the game for those guys. It's ingrained in you and it always has been. And you don't want to see it end.''
Dunlap has a unique perspective on the rivalry because he grew up in West Virginia, played in one of the most iconic Backyard Brawls of all time and has coached in it more than 20 times. He certainly doesn't want to see it come to an end and hopes there are like minds among those who make such decisions.
"Well, you know, Oliver Luck played here, too,'' Dunlap said, referring to the WVU athletic director. "He feels the same way the rest of us do.''
Through all the years of watching, playing in and coaching in the Backyard Brawl, one game still stands out. Dunlap was the middle linebacker for the Mountaineers in 1975 when West Virginia won over Tony Dorsett and the Panthers at old Mountaineer Field. Bill McKenzie kicked a field goal on the game's last play for a 17-14 win.
"Bill McKenzie's still my hero,'' Dunlap said. "That's the game I'll always remember. We all ran on the field and jumped on that pile and I about suffocated. The whole team was out there and I was on the bottom of that pile.''
Dunlap isn't alone in wanting to see the rivalry continue. Even a guy like defensive end Bruce Irvin, who has played in only one and has just one left, thinks it would be a shame to see it end.
"It wouldn't be fair to the players or the fans or the players who came before us,'' Irvin said. "When you come here you learn about the rivalry with Pitt. J.T. Thomas let me know about it the first day I got here. It's part of the program.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.