Syracuse & Pitt: Not Strangers, Not Bitter Rivals But Intrinsically-Linked

PITTSBURGH PA - JANUARY 17: Dion Waiters #3 of the Syracuse Orange pursues a loose ball against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Petersen Events Center on January 17 2011 in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Of all the schools the Syracuse Orange could buddy up with to leave the Big East and head to the ACC, the Pittsburgh Panthers is a funny one.

Syracuse and Pitt are old rivals that go way back. In football, the two schools first played one another in 1916 and have played every year since 1955 (Pitt leads 33-30-3). In basketball, the two teams have played each other 99 times (SU leads 61-38), including many a Big East game.

And yet, if you were to ask Syracuse fans to list out the top five teams they want to beat in either sport, there's a good chance Pittsburgh won't even show up on those lists.

West Virginia is our classic football rival, with whom we share a trophy and memorable games. Rutgers and UConn are nouveau football rivals who battle us for NYC-area supremacy.

In basketball, it's all about Georgetown and UConn with a little Villanova thrown in there. You'd probably even put St. John's up there and maybe even Providence or Louisville.

Not to say Pittsburgh isn't good in either sport. They've been giving us fits in both sports for years. It's just that Pittsburgh is neither our arch-enemy nor our nemesis. Syracuse fans want to beat Pitt, but they NEED to beat the likes of West Virginia and/or Georgetown.

For a long time, I had this group of friends from high school. There were five of us and we were basically inseparable. Whenever something was going on, all five of us were together doing it. Among the four other guys, I had different relationships, most of which were strong and could stand on their own...except for one guy. Not to say that he and I weren't friends, we were. However he and I never really got deep. Unlike the other guys, he and I never hung out on our own. On the rare occasion it was just he and I, it was awkward. As soon as we returned to the group, things were fine. We were better friends within the construct of the group than we were as two guys hanging out together.

That's how I view the Syracuse and Pitt relationship.

So, yeah, it's funny that it's the two of us that are intrinsically-linked by this move to the ACC. Now, along with Boston College, we're this little group within the big group. Those Northeastern folks.

We will continue to play one another in both sports consistently. We've played both Pitt and West Virginia every year since 1955 but it looks like only one of those will continue. We'll keep playing Pitt twice a year in basketball, making annual trips to The Zoo. We will root against the Panthers as rivals and root for them as conference mates. We will expect them to lose when it matters most, which is, after all, what Pitt does best.

Syracuse and Pitt. Still together...somehow. Now and forever.

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