Vermilion star pitcher suing to continue collegiate career

SANDUSKY All Andy Oliver wanted to do was go to Oklahoma State University and attempt to lead the sc
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

 

SANDUSKY

All Andy Oliver wanted to do was go to Oklahoma State University and attempt to lead the school to the College World Series.

The 21-year-old former Vermilion High pitching sensation has instead found himself in a legal battle to continue his college baseball career.

One of the top collegiate pitchers in the country, Oliver was suspended by the NCAA and Oklahoma State University hours before a tournament game in May.

Oliver was suspended because in June 2006, after being drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 17th round, his advisers listened in on contract negotiations, which is against NCAA rules.

Oliver is currently suspended for 70 percent of the upcoming college baseball season.

He is suing the NCAA in Erie County Common Pleas Court to have his eligibility reinstated and to have NCAA rules involving agents and restitution invalidated. Oliver is also asking for damages.

Oliver's bench trial in front of Judge Tygh Tone began Monday. The trial has been split into two halves. Tone will rule on the eligibility and if the NCAA's rules involving agents is valid.

The second half, which deals with breach of contract and tortuous interference, will likely be a jury trial.

The violation would likely never have come to light if Oliver had not changed advisers in the spring of 2008. Oliver signed with lawyers Tim and Robert M. Baratta to be his advisers in 2006.

Under NCAA rules a player can hire an adviser. The adviser can help them through a contract negotiation, but cannot have direct contact with a team.

When Oliver was talking money with the Twins in 2006, Tim Baratta was present at Oliver's Vermilion home, which is a violation of NCAA rules.

The infraction, however, did not become public until 2008 after Oliver fired the Barattas and hired Scott Boras to be his adviser. Boras is considered the premier agent in baseball and represents some of sport's biggest stars.

The Barattas attempt to collect more than $113,000 in fees from Oliver and, when that failed, things got nasty.

The Barattas then reported Oliver to the NCAA, saying he'd asked them for baseball equipment. The Barattas also claimed that Boras offered Oliver equipment and coaching "to induce him to switch his representation."

The NCAA investigated and discovered that Tim Baratta had been present when the Twins offered Oliver $390,000 to sign with them in 2006.

Oliver's attorney, Richard Johnson, is arguing that the Barattas were bound by ethics laws to represent Oliver when money was discussed.

"No lay person, parent or child, is in a position to negotiate a professional sports contract," Johnson said.

During Monday's trial, Oliver, who wore a dark suit and tie, testified he hired the Barattas because they were lawyers and he believed they would protect his amateur status.

Oliver also testified that, prior to being suspended by Oklahoma State and the NCAA, he was not given the opportunity to contact a lawyer he hired to help in a legal matter involving the Barattas. Oliver said he was interviewed by NCAA investigators for more than two hours the night before the tournament game.

Oliver said he felt "betrayed" by the NCAA and Oklahoma State for suspending him without first fully advising him of his legal rights and without allowing him a chance to defend himself against the charges.

He also testified that if he had not been suspended in May, Oklahoma State, which was ranked No. 5 in the country at the time, would have likely gone to the College World Series.

Oliver testified he felt "humiliated" when he learned of his suspension.

"I was devastated," he said.

Oliver's father, Dave Oliver, also testified Monday.

The trial continues Tuesday.