Mesa, Arizona - Early last Tuesday morning, Arizona Rattlers head coach Todd Shell was arrested behind a Mesa business building. Coach Shell was shirtless and hallucinating, claiming a man in camouflage was hiding in a tree, when officer Mike Duke found him. Officer Duke also found an eighth of an ounce of cocaine on Shell. When taken in for questioning, he admitted to snorting and possessing cocaine and now faces possible drug charges from the Maricopa County DA's office.
Since the incident, Shell has stepped down from his job as head coach of the Rattlers. Shell began his head coaching career with San Jose in 1995, getting the team to the playoffs three of his four years as head coach. After an absence from the Head Coaching spot, Shell reappeared in New York with the Dragons, taking the reigns midway through the season, turning the team around from an 0-6 start (0-4 when he took over) to an 8-8 finish, an Eastern division title, and a first round playoff win in 2003, garnering himself the title Coach of the Year. In his first and only year with the Rattlers, the team finished with a 7-9 record. His resignation leaves the Head Coaching spot open. Rumors are abound already with names, of which there are plenty well qualified candidates for the storied franchise to choose from. Steve Thonn's name is being thrown around, as is the norm this off-season, (his name was also mentioned in rumors about the Columbus and Philadelphia head coaching positions) and rightfully so, his work as Offensive Coordinator with the Georgia Force lead the team to an ArenaBowl berth. Another name being thrown around is Shell's right hand man, Larry Kuharich, who worked with Shell as an OC in New York and Arizona. On his own, Kuharich won an ArenaBowl with the Storm in 1993, and was a Head Coach in the leagues only All Star game in the same year, but has a dismal 5-36 record as Head Coach since his stint with the Storm ended.
The Arena Football League has yet to make an official comment on Shell's admitted cocaine use, and probably never will. The only thing that can be found on their main webpage is that he has resigned. This brings into question why the league still refuses to publicly air its dirty laundry. Drug use is becoming more and more widely heard about in the sports world, and if the AFL wants to be taken seriously, it should probably open up and admit when something like this happens. They wouldn't be alone, it's happening all over sports. Current Oakland Raiders wide receiver Randy Moss recently admitted to smoking marijuana, former Mets' Ace Dwight Gooden was recently taken in to custody for driving under the influence and fleeing arrest, and oh yeah, I think I heard about some steroid scandal going on in MLB as well. However, the above leagues and teams have all either given direct comments about the situation, or have written articles about the situation which can easily be found on their web pages. The AFL's "turning the other cheek" shtick has got to stop if this league wants to be taken seriously along with the "Big 4". At least acknowledge the situation, ignoring it just makes matters worse, because reporters like me are going to rip the league to shreds for acting like a Bush League. That's not really the type of press you want your league getting, is it?
As for Coach Shell, I would have sympathy for him, since I realize how devastating a cocaine addiction can be, however as this is not his first run-in with the law, Shell should have known better. (In late 2003 Shell was pulled over for a DUI, with a BAC level of .175, over twice the average legal limit in the USA). Shell was released on a $1000 bail and awaits his charges, which could include possession of narcotics and paraphernalia.
My question is what type of man tries cocaine for the first time at age 43 like he claims to have done? (He said that he had only done it 3 times before) He has a good job, a loving family, and a team that was counting on him, what was he thinking? My guess is that this isn't just his fourth encounter with the white stuff, and that his famous fiery attitude isn't something he got from his father. He most likely has an addiction, and I hope the DA prosecutes him hard and sends him to a rehab clinic. Having met him and spoken to him before, I know he's a good man and a great coach, and I hope he gets the help he deserves, whether he likes it or not.