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Pitt transfer wide receiver Taysir Mack declared eligible by NCAA

Jerry DiPaola
| Friday, Aug. 17, 2018, 10:12 a.m.
Pitt receiver Taysir Mack runs after a catch during the spring game May 14, 2018 at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt receiver Taysir Mack runs after a catch during the spring game May 14, 2018 at Heinz Field.

Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said he doesn’t want to hand wide receiver Taysir Mack a starting job, but he stopped just short of doing that Friday morning.

Narduzzi called it “one of the best text messages you can get,” when he got the news Thursday that the NCAA declared Mack eligible to play this season. Mack played 12 games at Indiana last season, and the expectation had been since he enrolled in January that he would be forced to sit out the 2018 season.

But NCAA associate director of public and media relations Michelle Hosick said Friday the Division I Council adjusted transfer guidelines this year. The changes allow immediate competition if all four of the following criteria are met, she said:

• Transfer is due to documented mitigating circumstances outside student-athlete’s control and directly impacts health, safety and well-being of student-athlete;

• At time of transfer, the student-athlete would have been athletically and academically eligible and in good standing on the team had he or she remained at the previous school;

• Student-athlete meets percentage-of-degree requirements at the new school;

• The previous school’s athletics administration does not oppose transfer.

Hosick declined comment on specific student-athletes.

Narduzzi said the details of the transfer are less important than the result.

“I told our football team, and they erupted a little bit, a little enthusiasm in the team room,” he said.

Mack (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) is expected to be an immediate upgrade to Pitt’s wide receiver group that has several able bodies but little experience.

“Time will tell. We’re not going to anoint anybody any starting jobs,” Narduzzi said. But he admitted, “It makes us a little bit different.”

Mack spent two seasons at Indiana, sitting out his freshman year (2016) before catching 23 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns last season. He became the first Indiana freshman — actually a redshirt freshman — to gain 100 yards receiving in a game when he totaled 132 against Purdue.

In the spring, he said he transferred to Pitt to get closer to his Brooklyn, N.Y., home.

“I saw the growth within the team,” he said.

Mack has built a good relationship with offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, who was with Indiana in 2016.

“He motivated me to stay on top of it,” Mack said. “He said I reminded him of DeVante Parker from Louisville (a first-round draft choice of the Miami Dolphins in 2015). He sees that I can be the No. 1 guy. I just have to keep working at it.”

Watson coached Parker at Louisville.

Despite the uncertainty of playing this season, Mack said he kept preparing for an opportunity that might not come.

“I was always told be ready, so I wouldn’t have to get ready,” he said.

To that end, he spent the summer with quarterback Kenny Pickett and the other wide receivers and has been practicing during training camp this month.

“I had a bunch of friends around me, a bunch of coaches around me, who support me day-in and day-out,” Mack said. “Regardless of if I could play or not, they were with me as a person.”

Narduzzi declined to discuss specifics of the NCAA’s eligibility ruling on Mack, but he praised associate athletic directors Dustin Gray and Chris LaSala for sifting through the necessary paperwork and phone calls. “Making sure when we did go with the waiver, it was done properly,” the coach said.

Narduzzi also thanked Indiana coach Tom Allen, who apparently approved Mack’s immediate eligibility.

“When you talk about caring for kids, my hat goes off to that guy for doing the right thing,” he said.

“I am very pleased for Taysir, and I wish him the best,” Allen said through a spokesman.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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