Capel: Pitt won’t play Duquesne again in 2020

Pitt and Duquesne didn't meet for the City Game for the first time since 1969 last year.

They won't meet in the 2020-21 season, either.

Speaking with the Tribune-Review's Jerry DiPaola Thursday, Pitt head coach Jeff Capel said Duquesne isn't on Pitt's nonconference schedule for the upcoming season, offering a simple "no" when the question was asked. From there, Capel declined to elaborate.

This marks not just two straight years of Capel's Panthers bowing out of the City Game, but two straight years of Capel failing to truly explain the reasoning behind it.

Here was Capel last year:

Yeah. It was a little tense in that room.

A few days later, Capel addressed the topic in a bit more detail on 93.7 The Fan's Morning Show:

All this said, the City Game was supposed to come back for 2020-21.

“We are pleased to work with the University of Pittsburgh and our valued partners at PPG Paints Arena to continue the City Game in 2020 and 2021,” Duquesne athletic director Dave Harper said in a statement in March of 2019. “The very title ‘City Game’ is profound. This is a game for the city of Pittsburgh and its sports fans. It is an event circled on calendars each year."

Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke added that,"We look forward to resuming the game with great anticipation in 2020 and 2021."

Or not, apparently.

Then came this from Harper in a statement Thursday, shedding some additional insight into the matter.

"Despite a March 2019 public statement and verbal commitment to resume the City Game in 2020-21 and 2021-22, we were informed by Pitt that they do not wish to play Duquesne at PPG Paints Arena in either year,” Harper said. "We offered to play at Petersen Events Center this year, for no guarantee fee, no ticket allotment or any special considerations, but that offer was declined. We have an offer to play at Pitt in 2021-22 that we are considering."

Lyke confirmed that offer is on the table and expanded upon Capel’s “no” a bit in a statement Thursday evening.

“Coach Capel and I regularly discuss non-conference scheduling and how to balance it against 20 ACC games, the ACC-Big Ten Challenge as well as special opportunities like this year’s Myrtle Beach Invitational,” Lyke said. “A game with Duquesne this season did not fit with our non-ACC scheduling model. However, we have provided Duquesne with a game contract to play at the Petersen Events Center during the 2021-22 season and we are awaiting their response to our offer to play.”


I don't know why this happened exactly. Let's start with that. But I do have an understanding of Capel's mentality and his philosophy.

He didn't come to Pitt to play nice and to be friendly. He came to Pitt to build a top-25, nationally recognized basketball program. Clearly, there is a disconnect between the two for him right now. Does playing Duquesne serve his ultimate purpose? Does it make sense to face the Dukes vs. taking a game against a Northern Illinois-type program that gives his young, developing team valuable minutes and learning experiences with less risk?

Our Dejan Kovacevic has a fun idea on that front:

Pitt has the No. 25 overall recruiting class in 2020 (fifth in the ACC), the best of any class since Capel took over before the 2018-19 season. They're trending up in a big way, landing two four-star recruits in this class in John Hugley and William Jeffress.

So did they outgrow Duquense? Does Duquesne's own growth — 21-9 and fifth in the Atlantic 10 — represent too big a risk?

Again, I don't know.

But left to only our guesses ... yeah, just take a look at DK's tweet up there again. The rub in this is that I don't think Pitt would've lost to Duquesne last year, and I certainly don't think they'd lose to Duquesne this year with the growth and additions they've made. But there's no doubt Duquesne is trending up, too, and that's a riskier, no-win proposition for Capel and his crew. They don't really benefit with a win. But they do take a major blow if they lose.

Where that point's concerned ... why would Pitt offer to host the game in 2021-22 if that's the case? Playing at Petersen Events Center vs. PPG Paints Arena certainly doesn't factor in that much on that front.

Ultimately, it's not a good look for Pitt — and it's made worse by the lack of a clear explanation.

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