A lot of West Virginia Mountaineers fans were butthurt after finding out that they'd be playing the Syracuse Orange and not the Pittsburgh Panthers in the Pinstripe Bowl on December 29. The whole thing made me think of two things:
1. If playing the Backyard Brawl is so important, why did you stop scheduling Pitt?
2. Yeah, why DID the Pinstripe Bowl pick us?
I mean, we're an obvious selection and yet, given the circumstances, we also weren't. I have to admit that in the hours leading up to the announcement I honestly thought we were headed to Birmingham. The pull and desire for a Backyard Brawl reunion in New York City seemed like too much to overcome.
So what was it that made Pinstripe Bowl's executive director Mark Holtzman choose us over Pitt? Ultimately, just common sense, it seems.
Holtzman listed the bowl committee's rationale for choosing the Orange (7-5): "Syracuse has been here before, New York team, ended up great" by winning five of six. But aside from disappointing the core group of Pitt and WVU fans who preferred a neutral-site Backyard Brawl, Holtzman didn't have much cause to defend the selection of Syracuse, which had a better overall record than Pitt (6-6), finished with a two-game edge in the Big East standings and, oh by the way, defeated the Panthers head-to-head 14-13 on Oct. 5.
"We just felt that this would be a very, very compelling matchup," Holtzman said. "It's two schools that have a long history of playing each other as well."
The bottom line for bowl games like the Pinstripe Bowl is butts in the seats and merch sales. When it comes to that, Syracuse was a proven commodity. So if you could get the guaranteed sales AND the rivalry, all the better.
As far as WVU being upset about being in the Pinstripe to begin with, AD Oliver Luck makes it simple. If we want to play elsewhere, we need to win more games.
The reality is the bowls choose us," Luck said. "And if we want to get to a better bowl, it's very simple: We've got to win another game or two. We didn't do that. We're 7-5 along with four other Big 12 teams."