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A Landmark Lawsuit for NCAA Prospects

Sometimes it's the subtle changes that have the biggest effect on a traditional game like baseball. The ruling in this lawsuit may not provide a sea-change about how high school and college prospects are shopped to major league baseball, but it could greatly change how open players are to signing directly out of high school.

The case in question, a suit filed by Oklahoma State pitcher Andrew Oliver, claimed that the NCAA violated his right to fair consel because the NCAA allows a player to hire an agent, but then suspends the player should his legal representative try to negotiate a professional contract for the player.

Oliver was suspended last spring just before the regional round of the NCAA Tournament and was told he had to miss 70 percent of Oklahoma State's games this season because of contact his former representatives, Tim and Robert Baratta, had with the Twins, where a potential contract was discussed. That was enough to set off NCAA alarm bells, and send Oliver to the dugout.

The judge in Oliver's case, one Tygh Tone (great name, isn't it?) of the Erie County Common Pleas court in Ohio, ruled that any rule that allows players to hire a lawyer but then doesn't allow the lawyer to negotiate for the player without consequence inherently exploits the player. The NCAA might not like it, but he's got a point.

In the short term, Oliver will get to play all season for Oklahoma State, then the junior will probably be drafted and may sign to play professionally this time around. The consequences for the NCAA are much more significant, as this will allow agents for top high school prospects to be much more aggressive and direct in negotiations without fearing collegiate consequences for their clients.

No, it's not the kind of rule-change that would affect a top-overall draft pick, but it could have trickle down ramifications for players picked in later rounds. With teams already trying to find more creative ways to accommodate top high school players -- see the Nationals' handling of pitcher Jack McGeary -- this may give those players more opportunities to make a run at a fair contract before they start college and face a three-year gap before they can turn professional again.

By Cameron Smith  |  February 13, 2009; 12:41 PM ET
Categories:  Twins  
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This seems like it could have more far-reaching effects as well. Perhaps it will even further muddle the basketball and football drafts.

Posted by: JohninMpls | February 13, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

The judge makes a lot of sense, which is probably exactly why MLB and the NCAA haven't allowed it to happen.

Is there a good reason why the NCAA doesn't allow their players the right to have contact with agents? It seems that it wouldn't affect their play or their school work (since we all know they care so much about that), and it would only help the athlete know more about their future. The rule is here: and the reasoning is here: "When student-athletes accept those offers, they cross the fine line that separates them from an amateur who participates for the educational, physical, mental and social benefits to a professional who is paid to play, making what had been an avocation a vocation."

Can someone explain to me how entering an agreement with an agent suddenly means the athlete gets paid to play? Seems to me they wouldn't get paid until they are drafted and sign a contract.

Posted by: adampschroeder | February 13, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

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