Will Anyone Care About Past Conference Rivalries in the Future?

The Backyard Brawl and UVA-Maryland are back, but will short revivals of these rivalries be enough to keep fans caring?

Maryland and Virginia meet for the first time since 2013 tonight
Source: NCAA.com

This weekend is heavenly for college football purists as two longtime rivalries hit the field. Tonight, Maryland faces off with Virginia in the first Tydings Trophy battle since 2013. Tomorrow night, ESPN rightfully gave The Backyard Brawl between Pitt and West Virginia the ABC Saturday Night Football treatment. Both rivalries are tried and true. Maryland and Virginia have played 78 times since 1919. This year's Backyard Brawl is the 106th meeting since the rivalry's genesis in 1895.

For longtime college football fans, this serves as a reminder of the way things used to be when geography and hatred between fanbases drove rivalries and not TV network manufacturing. However, can these rivalries survive on memories alone?

Maryland and Virginia's home-and-home series this year and the next are the only meetings scheduled for the next decade. Pitt and West Virginia meet six times in the next ten years, but a three-year hiatus from 2026 to 2028 may derail any momentum the rivalry gained from its 2022-2025 revival.

While the Backyard Brawl may be fine, the fact it took 11 years to revive is troubling. 11 years is enough time for young college football to cultivate a love for the game without these rivalries being a tradition or even a reality. The same applies for Maryland and Virginia.

These short rivalry revivals are fun for fans, yet they do nothing in the long run. They are nearly once-in-a-lifetime events, thanks to conference realignment and forgotten once the series end.

For example, look at Penn State-Pitt. The two Keystone State schools continued their rivalry from 2016-2019. Most of the series was entertaining, but after 2019. the thrill of a revived tradition disappeared.

Seeing these rivalries revived for what seems to be one last hurrah is a victory for fans. However, its fruits are short-lived.

New traditions emerge, or the powers that be manufacture them. This means forced rivalries in lieu of traditional series. Soon, there will be hardly any recollection of the emotions and thrill that came with old conference alignments.

Games like Maryland-Virginia and West Virginia-Pitt will be relics of a dying age. One where regionalism and tradition were king. Fans will be more used to a reality without these rivalries than with them. So, savor the Tydings Trophy Game and Backyard Brawl, because soon they will not feel the same.