Anyone who thinks it’s vindictive or punitive for Pitt to block Rushel Shell from transferring to Arizona State or Arizona is looking at this drama from the wrong angle.
When a source close to Shell told me that Pitt — and specifically athletic director Steve Pederson and coach Paul Chryst — won’t allow those schools to snatch their former star running back, it made sense.
Arizona State coach Todd Graham, assistants Mike Norvell, Paul Randolph and Bo Graham and strength coach Shawn Griswold were part of the staff that initially lured Shell to Pitt. Same goes for Arizona assistants Calvin Magee and Tony Dews and on-campus recruiting director Matt Dudek.
Coaches and staff often maintain relationships with recruits, even if they end up going somewhere else. To allow those coaches to take their pick when a player is unhappy isn’t wise. Where does it stop?
Would other Pitt players who have maintained ties to Graham or Dews try to transfer to their schools after they saw Shell do it? Maybe.
In any case, it sets a bad precedent.
Last year, Arizona State snatched cornerback Lloyd Carrington, who followed Graham to Pitt in 2011, but left the Panthers at the end of the 2012 training camp. Pitt believed it could live with Carrington’s departure because he is from Dallas and wanted to be a little closer to home (although there are 1,063 miles between Tempe, Ariz., and Dallas).
Shell’s case, obviously, is different than that of Carrington. (By the way, Shell also can request a hearing if he truly wants to fight Pitt blocking him from certain schools.)
I had a guy tell me that Pitt should have refused to clear Shell to go anywhere, thereby keeping him at Pitt against his will, but forcing him to honor his original commitment.
It’s been done before. Joe Paterno did it with Rob Bolden, who wanted to transfer from Penn State after the 2010 season. Paterno refused to sign transfer papers and Bolden was forced to stay for the 2011 season. He ended up transferring to LSU last year after Bill O’Brien replaced Paterno and Penn State was hit with NCAA sanctions.
Sometimes, it’s best to see the situation clearly, cut ties and move on to other business. But even that bit of logic has its limits.
One final personal note: I found Shell to be a polite, respectful, thoughtful young man during the many times I interviewed him last season. Here’s hoping Shell finds what he’s seeking at his new school.