The Week That Was In Pittsburgh Sports - Week of June 15

Highlighting 5 stories in Pittsburgh this week

Matt Koll
June 19, 2020 - 11:23 am
Bob Nutting

Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Here are five stories Pittsburgh sports gave us this week, with some of my spin on things as well. 

5. Robert Morris Moves To Horizon League, Big South 

STORY: On Monday, the school announced it will become the 12th member of the league, as 10 of its 15 varsity programs will make the jump. The football program, meanwhile, will now be members of the Big South. 

SPIN: This is an uptick in competition for Robert Morris basketball, both men's and women's, and that's a healthy thing for the growth of the programs. It's also a credit to the great work both have done in having so much success in the NEC and essentially growing out of it. The women have won 4 of the last 7 conference championships, including the past two seasons, while the men won the conference tournament this past season in what has become the last actual live sports memory for me before the sports world shut down. 

According to the Post-Gazette, the Horizon League ranks 20th overall in men's basketball as compared to the NEC's 29th overall ranking. There's history there with Butler becoming a big-time basketball school out of the Horizon League. This is a reward of sorts for head coach Andy Toole, who has done nothing but win at RMU and stick by the program for 10 years now. They have a new arena to play in, a new conference to tackle, and I honestly believe Toole, Keith Dambrot at Duquense and Jeff Capel at Pitt can really make college hoops in Pittsburgh fun to watch again. Speaking of Pitt....  

4. Backyard Brawl Extended 

STORY: It was announced Thursday that The University of Pittsburgh and West Virginia University have signed a contract to extend the Backyard Brawl through the 2022-23 basketball season, adding two additional games to a series that resumed during the 2017-18 season.

SPIN: Will the Backyard Brawl ever be the same as it was back in the Big East days? No, probably not. At least not while the two are in separate conferences and are seemingly playing at different levels in terms of talent. But, that second stipulation is slowly changing under Jeff Capel. Pitt comes in with a strong recruiting class in 2020 and some names like Xavier Johnson and Justin Champagnie to build on. I'm all for keeping as many rivalries alive as you can, especially local ones (looking at you, Penn State football). Side note, Pitt has yet to develop a traditional ACC rival, outside of maybe Syracuse, which is a bit of a problem. 

Man, I miss some of those Big East battles. Remember this?  

3. Hall Of Fame Game In Jeopardy 

STORY: On Tuesday of this week, Ohio governor Mike DeWine expressed concern and doubt about whether the Hall of Fame Game between the Steelers and Cowboys scheduled for August 6th would be played in front of fans. On Thursday, Steelers defensive lineman Cam Heyward said that he believes the game might not even be played. 

Related: Steelers Captain Doubts HOF Game Will Happen

SPIN: As much as Gov. DeWine is in the know, It got real when Cam Heyward, an NFL player, said it on Thursday. Heyward was admittedly pessimistic about it even be being played at all. You couple that with the fact that the NFL might cut the preseason down for four games to two this year and suddenly, it doesn't look very likely at all. 

Is it a big deal in the end? Not really. Although, this might be the one preseason game that actually makes decent money as its the first one of the year for starving football fans, especially this year. The much bigger issue is how much the NFL is going to plow through and stick to their commitment to have the schedule remain the same when people like Dr. Anthony Fauci are doubting a season will take place. 

I'm not going to doubt the power of the NFL. They can pretty much do what they want. Fans in the stands may not happen. But the entire fall without one game being played? I doubt it.    

2. Bob Nutting Wants Games To Be Played

STORY: In his weekly appearance on The Cook And Joe Show Wednesday, Pirates manager Derek Shelton revealed he had just had a conversation with owner Bob Nutting. He relayed to the guys that Nutting wanted games to be played this year, starting as quickly as possible.

SPIN: This was significant, given that just the day before reports surfaced that as many as eight teams owners across the league didn't even want games to be played this year with all the money the teams could stand to lose. I have a hard time wrapping my brain around this concept, given that there is still at least some money to be saved by playing and how the lack of a season entirely would just decimate so many teams. According to MLB insider Jon Heyman, who joined The Fan Morning Show Friday, this is a thought that realistically only one or two owners are actually serious about and it isn't anything to be concerned with. So the Buccos want to play, from the top down. So....how are those discussions going, guys?  

1. The Pirates Are Going To Play This Year! Oh Wait, They're Not. Yes, They Are! But When?

STORY: After a face-to-face meeting between MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBPA leader Tony Clark, the framework of an agreement was believed to be had. The league offered 60 games, full prorated salaries and expanded playoffs. The players...countered. They want 70 games. We're at an impasse yet again. 

SPIN: Great strides were made! This could be it! Baseball is coming back! (A few hours later) The union has rejected it. They want 70 games. The league is even more upset this time because they thought they had a deal in place with them. If anything, they expected a 65-game counter offer, not 70. We're haggling over 10 games. We've been duped once again. 

MLB insider Jon Heyman believes we will most likely end up with a mandated season from Rob Manfred in the end and that these two sides will never come to an agreement. Just when you think sensibility has finally entered into the ole chinwag, it didn't.

We're only....10...games....away. How can we give up now? Either way we'll have baseball. It's just a matter of whether it's done reluctantly on all sides or not. 

The saga continues... 

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