PIAA overturns WPIAL, makes West Mifflin football standout Nahki Johnson eligible

Tuesday, July 30, 2019 | 2:55 PM

The recruiting allegations made against Nahki Johnson and coach Rod Steele were “unsubstantiated,” the PIAA decided Tuesday, so it ruled the West Mifflin football standout immediately eligible.

Johnson, a Pitt recruit and one of the WPIAL’s top rising junior, was ruled ineligible last month by the WPIAL, but that decision was overturned by the PIAA during an appeals hearing in Mechanicsburg.

The 6-foot-3, 225-pound defensive end transferred from Steel Valley to West Mifflin in December.

Steel Valley had contested the transfer as athletically motivated.

“(West Mifflin) made a good case for the rationale and the timing of the change (in schools),” PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said. “They had verification and documentation of when, why and how. The allegations of recruiting, the rumors and innuendo that came from the school, were not verified or substantiated.”

Lombardi also credited “the believability of the coach.”

“They all named places and times that were verified,” he said, “and the rumor and innuendo was not.”

For now, Johnson was ruled eligible only for the regular season. Under new PIAA rules, all transfers after the start of 10th grade are automatically ineligible for the postseason unless they meet the strict criteria for a hardship waiver.

For Johnson to participate in the playoffs, West Mifflin’s administration must request and receive that hardship waiver from the WPIAL.

“The hardship (waiver) is a pretty high bar,” Lombardi said.

The WPIAL had ruled Johnson ineligible June 20 following a hearing at the league office in Green Tree. The WPIAL board’s concern was that Johnson transferred shortly before Steele also switched from Steel Valley to West Mifflin.

Johnson was honored as a TribLive HSSN Preseason All-Star at Kennywood Park on July 23.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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