John Steigerwald

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John Steigerwald has been a fixture of TV, radio, and newspaper sports in Pittsburgh, and has a Sunday column in the Observer-Reporter.

Pitt should have stood up to Shell on transfer

Pitt should have stood up to Shell

April 7, 2013

Pitt should have just said no.

When Pitt running back Rushel Shell asked to be released from his commitment so that he could transfer to another school, his coach, Paul Chryst, should have told him to forget it.

There has been plenty of speculation about why Shell, who was going to be Pitt’s No. 1 running back this coming season, wanted to leave.

The mother of his 9-month-old twin girls on Twitter accused him of running away from his obligations as a father.

There also was talk that he was unhappy with criticism he was getting from the coaching staff.

I don’t recall any discussion about Shell deciding he was unhappy with any of his professors, the quality of the education he was receiving or a desire to switch to a major that isn’t offered at Pitt.

Based only on what I have heard and read – and I admit there could be other legitimate reasons for leaving – this looked like a perfect teachable moment that was squandered.

Leaving to escape what he perceives to be unfair treatment by his coaches or the pressure of being a father are not legitimate reasons. This was a perfect time for the adults in Shell’s life to educate him on the meaning of commitment.

He should have been told he had two choices: show up for the next practice and be a part of the team, or quit. This is a kid who was suspended for a game in high school for disciplinary reasons and for the first game of his freshman season at Pitt for violating team rules.

He needs to grow up.

The adults let him down by letting him go.

• Here’s something that needs to go: The NCAA rule that allows colleges to dictate where a transferring player can go. Once Pitt released Shell, he should be free to take his meaningless commitment anywhere he wants. If Chryst is really concerned about Shell’s welfare, he wouldn’t try to avoid having to play against him or prevent him from playing for someone he or his bosses don’t like. Of course, the pathetic, corrupt, hypocritical, outdated, bloated bureaucracy known as the NCAA could take it out of the hands of the coach who is losing a player by passing a rule that prohibits a coach, who leaves a school, from accepting a player he recruited to his former school.

In this case, that would prevent the poster child of NCAA sleaze and hypocrisy, Todd Graham, from signing Shell at Arizona State. Pitt has prohibited Shell from transferring there, though he could still do so if he’s willing to pay his own way to school during the year he sits out.

• Again, I’m surprised the media continue to ignore the blindingly glaring inconsistency displayed by the NCAA when it comes to athletes and their amateur status. While Pitt was dealing with Shell’s decision to transfer and the decision by 7-0 freshman Steven Adams to declare for the NBA, Penguins general manager Ray Shero was busy trading the rights to two college players to the Calgary Flames for Jarome Iginla.

Adams has the ability to return to Pitt if he doesn’t hire an agent. But, according to the school, he intends to do so, which means he will lose his eligibility. But the rights to college hockey players who are drafted can belong to and be traded by an NHL team?

Last June, the Pirates’ ineptitude gave us another lesson in the NCAA’s inexplicable inconsistency. Your Buccos drafted Mark Appel, a pitcher from Stanford, in the first round. He obviously had no interest in being stuck in the Pirates organization and turned down $3.8 million. For some reason, he was able to return to Stanford and maintain his eligibility. He’s banking on being drafted by a real Major League team this June.

Why doesn’t Adams have that option? Why shouldn’t he and Shell be available to be drafted with the option of returning to college until they decide they’re ready to turn pro? Good luck trying to get an answer to that question. You can be sure of one thing, though. It has nothing to do with looking out for the welfare of the student-athlete.

• How long before teenaged (or younger) super-athletes and their parents realize that, if they are looking to cash in quickly, they should avoid pursuing football? If a kid is a can’t-miss prospect as a running back and outfielder, and, as is often the case, his family is hoping to use that athletic ability to drastically improve their quality of life, why tie his athletic success to his ability to do college work or the ability to adhere to the NCAA’s stupid eligibility requirements?

Get rid of the helmet. Devote 100 percent of your efforts to baseball. Instead of becoming a freshman at 19, become a millionaire.

With a steady paycheck.

There are fewer concussions.

Who knows? Maybe if Shell, who became the leading rusher in Pennsylvania high school football history, had devoted all his energy to being, say, a catcher, instead of a running back, he’d be a millionaire right now.

With lots of money to pay for night school.

John Steigerwald writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.



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