Rushel Shell is leaving Pittsburgh to join West Virginia. Photo: USA Today Sports
The rivalry between Pittsburgh and West Virginia has sizzled in a sense with the two programs going their separate ways during the college athletics realignment craze over the last few years. When West Virginia worked heir way out of the Big East ahead of schedule to join the Big 12 for the 2012 season, the Backyard Brawl became just another lost rivalry in college football. With the split in the rivalry I imagine tensions may cool in some respects, so perhaps this news is not as upsetting as it once may have been. Pittsburgh running back Rushel Shell will be transferring to West Virginia.
As reported by Jerry DiPaola of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review (and ESPN's Brett McMurphy), Shell intends to transfer to join the Mountaineers with three years of eligibility remaining. Shell had initially intended to transfer to UCLA earlier in the offseason, only to change his mind in order to stay closer to home with his family. Shell had hoped to be able to rejoin Pittsburgh but head coach Paul Chryst stood firm and made it clear he would not be welcomed back to the Panthers.
Whether you believe that was a good decision or not by Chryst, morally or focusing only on football, is your judgment to make. I personally would have welcomed Shell back but understand the logic in not bringing him back. He had already quit on the team once, so to speak, but young people often make mistakes. It's all a part of a learning experience. Either way, Shell was sin need of a new home and his ultimate goal was to remain somewhat close to home in western Pennsylvania.
Penn State never called as far as we know, with scholarship limits essentially never allowing them to entertain the idea. Cincinnati and Ohio State may or may not have taken a glance, and FCS or Division 2 options, of which there are plenty in and nearby western Pennsylvania to choose from, were not ideal for a player with the kind of talent and potential Shell should have. That leaves West Virginia as the most attractive option, and it should be an interesting fit.
West Virginia should be a good fit as the Mountaineers may be ready to focus a little more on running the football in the next couple of years. After losing guys like Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey to the NFL, this year should see junior Andrew Buie be a main contributor on offense. Shell will have to sit out the 2013 season due to NCAA transfer rules, which means he could be ready to take over the running game in Morgantown in 2014 if Buie is a guy who leaves for the NFL after this season. Even if Buie is there in 2014, that gives West Virginia a couple of running backs to mix things up a little bit, and gives Shell a little more time to prepare to take on a heavier work load in 2015.
Unless the two old rivals meet in a bowl game, Shell won't get a chance to make a statement against the Panthers. The two are not scheduled for any future games at this point, although West Virginia appears to be interested in trying to reunite at some point. West Virginia is reportedly close to closing a schedule arrangement with Penn State, so hopefully a series revival with Pitt is not too far behind.