- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Call me blindsided.
Our friends over at the Pac-12 blog seem to have a different take on the report that Shell won't be allowed to play at Arizona State. Ted Miller sarcastically notes Pitt hates freedom in his column wondering why the school would place restrictions on where Shell can continue playing ball.
I should now take the time to clarify something.
Pitt does not hate freedom. It hates Todd Graham.
Well, maybe hate is a strong word. Pitt strongly dislikes Todd Graham. Though it has been over a year since Graham left for Arizona State, folks up in Pittsburgh are still smarting from the way Graham left the Panthers at the end of the 2011 season. Graham was roundly eviscerated not just in Pittsburgh but the entire college football world for a series of events that went something like this:
1. Graham campaigned for the Pitt job, seeing a bigger opportunity than the one he had at Tulsa.
2. Got hired after the Mike Haywood debacle and proclaimed Pitt to be his "dream job."
3. Went 6-6 in his only year and then interviewed with Arizona State without permission from his superiors.
4. Took the Sun Devils job without a word to his players, and refused to acknowledge Pitt officials who actually went to his home and stood on his doorstep asking for an explanation.
Graham set the Pitt program back. And though time has passed, it has not healed all wounds. I present former Pitt defensive lineman Chas Alecxih, who played for the Panthers when Graham turned his back on them. Alecxih took to Twitter on April 2 to say, "Can't blame a kid for transferring if he is unhappy... unless he goes to play for the coach at ASU then I blame him for being very foolish."
Now, we can sit here and debate whether or not teams have the right to dictate where a player can transfer. Schools wield the power; student-athletes simply have to go along. Many aspects of the system as currently constructed are totally backward.
Is this fair to Shell? Heck no, it is not fair. But because of the rules that are in place, Pitt has a right to place restrictions on where Shell can play into the future. Why should the Panthers allow their best player to waltz on over to Benedict Graham simply because he had a change of heart? Pitt has its own self interest to protect.
Ted writes, "Not a single Pitt fan truly believes Pitt is acting like a bastion of higher learning and integrity with this decision."
Right. Because Todd Graham had a whole bunch of integrity when he left for another opportunity while working at said bastion of higher learning, leaving players behind without a care for their future. You know one of those players he left behind? That would be Shell, who had committed to the Panthers when Graham was still head coach.