Mailbag: Love from Pittsburgh

Happy Friday.

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Greetings to all our new Pitt fans. Maybe you can start a blog club with Kansas State and Mississippi State fans?

To the notes!

Alex from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: Ted,Your article about Rushel Shell's transfer reveals a lack of research on your part. Pitt's transfer policy has been consistent for the past 15 years. The University of Pittsburgh has never allowed transfers to schools with multiple former Pitt staffers. While the merits of this can be argued, this is an issue that needs to taken up with the NCAA as a whole, not just Pitt. If I remember correctly, in a previous article about Todd Graham leaving Pitt for ASU you told Pitt fans to get over it while not bringing to light the issue in college sports where college Presidents can freely lure coaches away from signed contracts. In other words, when Graham came to ASU there was no mention of the underlying NCAA issue at hand but when Shell transfers to ASU you are calling Pitt fans to take action against this problem that is an NCAA problem. It appears that you might be the one who needs to "get over" the fact that Shell won't be joining ASU or AZ unless he wants to pay his own way.

Ted Miller: This was one of the less addled responses to my column on Pitt blocking running back Rushel Shell from transferring to either Arizona or Arizona State, reportedly because former Pitt coaches are on the Wildcats and Sun Devils coaching staffs.

That, of course, includes Arizona State head coach Todd Graham, who isn't very popular at Pitt.

There were a variety of counterpoints from Pitt fans -- see below -- none that I found terribly compelling. There's a reason for that. As noted in the article, there really isn't anyone in the world who doesn't believe Pitt coach Paul Chryst and athletic administrators are wrong for limiting a young man's transfer options for no credible reason other than being petty.

Of course, some liked the idea of being petty. At least they were honest.

I did read one writer who said allowing Shell to transfer where he wanted would set a "bad precedent." That sort of thinking emerges from the perspective of "program above all else, right or wrong." Within that thinking is the justification that is that if Shell gets to join Graham at Arizona State, others might follow.

The gee whiz solution to that false problem is to make your program appealing so players don't want to leave. And if they do, good riddance.

Further, part of establishing a strong locker room culture as well as credibility with recruits and their parents is not doing things that are counter to the interests of student-athletes. Yes, schools that recruit against Pittsburgh will add the treatment of Shell to their clip file.

Alex from Ann Arbor seems like a pretty bright sort, but I'm not sure his initial point is very effective: "Your article about Rushel Shell's transfer reveals a lack of research on your part. Pitt's transfer policy has been consistent for the past 15 years. The University of Pittsburgh has never allowed transfers to schools with multiple former Pitt staffers."

You are correct. I didn't research whether this was institutional policy. For one, CB Lloyd Carrington already followed Graham from Pittsburgh to Arizona State (apparently Pitt didn't know his destination, other than to be closer to his Texas home, when he was granted his release). And, second, I don't think it bolsters Pitt's position to point out that a petty decision by Pitt is actually a petty institutional policy.

As for "college Presidents can freely lure coaches away from signed contracts," well, college presidents can freely fire their head coach, too. Within those signed contracts are buyout clauses that explain what happens if a coach is fired before his contract is over or if he decides to go elsewhere before his contract is over. These are business relationships. Not marriages.

Neither Pitt denying Shell the freedom to transfer where he wants to go, nor Graham leaving Pitt are NCAA issues. The NCAA does have transfer rules -- Shell will lose a year while he sits out the season -- but Pitt has the power to decide the nature of its release.

Beyond Alex's note, most of what landed in the mailbag -- and on Twitter -- made the following weak assertions:

  • "Arizona State is tampering!" Really? That's an NCAA violation. Report it.

  • "Everybody else does this!" Er, no. But, still, this is what happened TODAY. Ergo, my column.

  • There were lots of attacks on Shell's character, which is called "changing the subject." And being petty and churlish in a new way.

  • There were lots of "You defended Graham." Yep. I don't believe a guy should be forced to not take a job he really wants or to stay in a place he doesn't want to be.

  • There were lots of "You live in Scottsdale!" Yeah ... since 2008. Lived in Seattle from 1999-2008. Mobile, Ala., before that. Went to the University of Richmond. And was born and raised in Atlanta. So what?

  • There were accusations of a "hatchet job." This column wouldn't exist without Pitt's actions. No hatchet. Just doing my job.

  • There were lots of "Get your facts straight" with zero examples of facts not being straight.

  • And there were plenty of the classic, "Your an idiot."

Kevin also dropped me a note, thanking me for ruining his spring vacation to Pittsburgh.

Steve from Highland, Mich., writes: Can you please tell me why the Oregon Ducks have not been hit with sanctions yet? Is it because of the big bucks of Phil Knight with Nike? I find it rather odd some of the other schools are getting hammered with the exception of Oregon.

Ted Miller: Nothing to do with Phil Knight and Nike.

The NCAA simply moves at a glacial pace, which is unfair to the investigated school because part of the ultimate punishment becomes the prolonged presence of a dark cloud over the program.

I wrote this in December, and it still holds true today.

And you might have noticed the NCAA has its own issues these days.

Jay from Cambridge, Mass., writes: In a world where a lot of people around the country still characterize the Pac-12 as an offense-only conference, to what degree does having someone like DE Dion Jordan going as a second-overall draft pick remind people otherwise?

Ted Miller: It's even more than that: Both ESPN NFL draft gurus Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay project the first three Pac-12 players picked in the first round will all play defense: Jordan, Utah DT Star Lotulelei and Washington CB Desmond Trufant.

It probably will surprise some folks, but the Pac-12 has long had plenty of good defenses and plenty of good defensive players. The more pass-happy and, more recently, uptempo styles of offense out West have skewed defensive numbers, often making them look worse than they are.

Just about every Pac-12 team that has beoame a national contender played good defense, most notably Washington under Don James, USC under John McKay and Pete Carroll. Oregon under Chip Kelly and coordinator Nick Aliotti consistently played underrated defense. And Stanford's legitimacy as a national title contender is more about defense than offense.