By Lewis Gould

Penn State has stirred a big-time controversy with yesterday’s announcement on its future non-conference schedule:

Pitt, which had been lobbying to remain on Penn State’s schedule beyond 2019, is out.

Villanova and Temple are in!

The Lions and Owls will plays thew Nits in the 2026 and 2027 seasons. The first game will be in Philly on Sept. 12 — possibly at the Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field, but the Owls are hoping to build a new stadium of their own before then. Temple will hit Beaver Stadium on Sept. 18, 2027.

Villanova will visit Penn State on Sept. 25, 2021, and again on Sept. 13, 2025.

Also on the docket is another former FCS national champion, Delaware, which will make two trips to Happy Valley on Sept. 9, 2023, and then on Sept. 11, 2027.

Though the Big Ten briefly mandated that its schools not schedule any FCS opponents, that rule has gone by the wayside as programs were looking to pay less to add non-conference games.

The Lions announced one more future game with an FBS squad, bringing in Central Michigan for Sept. 24, 2022, at Beaver Stadium.

But it was the series with the Owls that raised the most eyebrows.

Penn State, like most major programs, looks to play one marquee non-conference game each season. With the Big Ten playing nine conference games, that leaves just two more open slots, which will most typically be filled with smaller schools.

This season, for example, the Lions will play Pitt in between games against Appalachian State and Kent State.

The contract with Pitt ends after a meeting in 2019, however, and Penn State has already set up home-and-homes with three other major schools.

Over the following six seasons, the Lions will play Virginia Tech (2020 and 2025), Auburn (2021-22) and West Virginia (2023-24).

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Pitt and new athletic director Heather Lyke have been vocal in their desire to continue the series with Penn State, but the Lions apparently were less enthusiastic about the idea.

The draw for Pitt is obvious. Their first game against the Lions at Heinz Field in 2016 drew the largest attendance for any sporting event in the history of Pittsburgh — college or pro. This season’s game, scheduled for prime time on Sept. 8 sold out a few weeks ago. Single-game tickets for the contest were not available directly from the school, which required people to purchase season tickets to go to the game.

So the two archrivals will have to make these final two meetings last, with 2019 being the 100th edition of the series. Last time it went on hiatus, it took 16 years until it resumed. And it’s looking like it might shape up that way again.

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