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GRW: Possible Running Back Transfer?

Could one of the nations' best underclassmen running backs be transferring to Cal?

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Justin K. Aller

Rushel Shell, Pitt running back and one of the best high school recruits from the class of 2012 (ranked as the 24th best player overall by ESPN, and the 3rd best running back overall), reportedly wants out at Pitt, and is highly considering several Pac-12 schools.

Out of high school, Shell was recruited heavily by Nick Saban and the Tide, but apparently wanted to stay close to home (he's a Pennsylvania native) for family reasons (apparently has 2 daughters he wanted to be close to), and consequently decided to attend Pitt. The reasons for Shell's transfer are unknown and have Pitt fans wondering what went wrong in the year that Shell was on campus. After all, Shell was reportedly one of the guys who worked to keep the 2012 recruiting class together when Todd Graham decided to leave for ASU.

Now that Shell has made it clear he wants to transfer, he has listed 4 PAC-12 schools as his primary options. These are Arizona State, Arizona, UCLA, and Cal. Although Pitt has issued supportive statements for Rushel, just a few days ago they said they would not release him to either of the Arizona schools. This seems a bit perplexing- why would Pitt care if Shell were playing for the Sun Devils under former Pitt coach Todd Graham? The schools are unlikely to ever end up actually playing each other. Similarly, Rich Rod's staff at Arizona has a lot of former Pitt assistant coaches, so that seems to be the reason there. Originally, I thought there may have been an NCAA rule that prohibited players from transferring schools in order to follow a coach or coaching staff. There seems to be no rule against this sort of action, but it is clear that coaches do have the ability to marginally dictate where their players can transfer.

Here's what the NCAA says on that:

Q: Can coaches dictate where a student-athlete can transfer?

A: Coaches can’t tell a student-athlete when or where he or she can transfer. Student-athletes are allowed to transfer at any time if they believe it is in their best interest to attend a different school.

However, in order to receive an athletics scholarship at another school, a student-athlete must receive permission to contact another school, in writing, from the initial school. This rule applies to all student-athletes, whether or not they are on scholarship at the initial school.

The NCAA does not have a rule specifically preventing schools from imposing conditions on which institutions a student-athlete may contact. Rather, NCAA rules require institutions to provide student-athletes a hearing outside of the athletics department if the student-athlete’s written request for permission to contact another institution is not granted, or is granted with conditions. Conditional releases are based on institutional or conference policies.

The NCAA encourages institutions to have their own, clearly communicated policies governing how they address a student-athlete’s request for permission to contact other institutions. Division I schools are required to have a written grievance or appeals process for transfers. That process must be shared in writing with staff, coaches and student-athletes.

Pitt is likely taking these measures to set a precedent; they don't want current disgruntled players thinking that they can simply follow the previous Pitt coaching staff away to their new respective schools. Additionally, Pitt has also blocked Shell from transferring to any ACC schools (the conference they are entering into next year). Anyway, the fact that Pitt is blocking Rushel from these schools is good for all of us Cal fans because now it seems like we have a 50/50 chance at landing him. If he became a Bear, Shell would have to sit out for the 2013 season, but would still be able to provide some much needed running back depth going into the future.

Here's some videos of him during high school and his freshmen year at Pitt.

Besides that fumble, the kid looks to be the real deal, and was able to amass over 600 yards as a 2nd string back last year. I would think that the only concern Dykes may have about this is whether or not Shell can survive in Cal's strenuous academic environment. What do you all think of him? Do you think we have a legitimate chance at getting him? We will be providing updates on this situation as they continue to come in.