JOHN STEIGERWALD: Former Pitt RB Shell needs to grow up
April 07, 2013 2:00 AM

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 from Day One this coming season, wanted to leave.

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

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

I don’t recall any discussion about Shell deciding that 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 that 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 suspended for the first game of his freshman season at Pitt for violating team rules.

He needs to grow up.

The grown-ups 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 Paul 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Of course, the pathetic, corrupt, hypocritical, outdated, bloated bureaucracy known as the NCAA could take it out of the hands of the coach who is losing a player by passing a rule that prohibits a coach, who leaves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 up at Arizona State. Pitt has prohibited Shell from transferring there.

Once again, I’m surprised that 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-foot freshman Steven Adams to declare for the NBA, Penguins General Manager Ray Shero was busy trading two college players to the Calgary Flames for Jerome Iginla.

Adams lost his eligibility the instant he declared himself eligible for the NBA draft, but college hockey players 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, Appel 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 didn’t Steven Adams have that option?

Why shouldn’t he and Rushel 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 teenage (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 as an outfielder, and, as is often the case, his family is hoping to use that athletic ability to drastically improve its 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% to baseball.

Instead of becoming a freshman at 19, become a millionaire.

With a steady paycheck.

No concussions.

Who knows, maybe if Rushel 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’s column appears every Sunday in the Indiana Gazette. Steigerwald’s blog can be found at, and he is the author of “Just Watch the Game.”

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