Andrew Oliver's attorney says his client will be there when Oklahoma State starts classes next week. The real question is, will Oliver return to the mound for the Cowboys? Until late spring, Oliver was OSU's pitching ace, a sophomore left-hander capable of carrying the Cowboys to the College World Series. In the last two years, Oliver had become such a hot prospect that Scott Boras, one of the most powerful agents in baseball, wanted him as a client. But the night before he was scheduled to pitch in a baseball regional, OSU and NCAA officials interviewed Oliver and his father late into the night. The switch to the Boras Corporation –– and firing his former advisers to do so –– had led to an investigation that turned up a number of possible NCAA violations and Oliver's suspension hours before he was supposed to take the mound. More than two months later, OSU officials say they are working toward restoring Oliver's eligibility, but the school has not yet filed for reinstatement to the NCAA. Oliver's attorney, Cleveland-based lawyer Rick Johnson, who frequently refers to Oklahoma State as Oklahoma, is frustrated by what he perceives as inaction. "Oklahoma (State) and the NCAA, they're sitting around pointing fingers,” Johnson said. "If Oklahoma suspended him, they can unsuspend him. It's real simple. Either they suspended him as an agent of the NCAA or they did it themselves. No one's taking any responsibility.” OSU's lead compliance officer said the school has filed paperwork to ask if facts uncovered during the investigation are NCAA violations. He said he submitted the most recent round of requests on July 22. "Once we get a ruling on that we can go to reinstatement,” said Scott Williams, OSU's Associate AD for Compliance. "Until that process has been completed the NCAA won't review the facts.” OSU's legal counsel, Charlie Drake, pointed out that Oliver is still on scholarship, and that the suspension only affects his eligibility to play in games, which don't start for six months. "When the season starts is when it would become an issue,” Drake said.
The other defendants had the case moved from Erie County, Ohio, where it was filed, to federal court. A federal judge declined to hold a hearing on Oliver's application for a preliminary injunction, which Johnson said relates to restoring his athletic eligibility.
Drake, OSU's attorney, said the injunction is "moot, because he can go to school.” OSU renewed Oliver's $20,240 in athletic aid for the school year.
"(Oliver's attorney) has been very active trying to get an injunction trying to solve all these things that are not a problem at this point,” Drake said.
The alleged violationsIn 2006, after his senior at Vermilion High School in Ohio, the Twins drafted Oliver in the 17th round of the MLB Draft. Many high school players take on advisers as they decide whether to go to the pros or college, and advisers are allowed by the NCAA so long as they don't market players or represent them in contract negotiations –– in effect, as long as they don't act as agents. Oliver used Robert and Tim Baratta, lawyers licensed in New York and New Jersey. After turning down the Twins' offer, Oliver started at OSU in the fall of 2006. As a freshman he was second on the team with six wins, and the summer after his freshman year, Baseball America named him the 10th-best pro prospect in the prestigious Cape Cod summer league. As a sophomore, Oliver led OSU in strikeouts and was named first team All Big 12. During his sophomore year, Oliver, who declined to be interviewed for this article, dismissed the Barattas in favor of Boras. "(Oliver) wanted nationally known, preeminent baseball sports advisers and attorneys, rather than a lesser known group,” Oliver's attorney says in a lawsuit. Two weeks later the lawyers sent Oliver an invoice for $113,750. On May 19, Robert Baratta sent a letter to the NCAA which begins "I am writing to report potential NCAA violations committed by … Andrew Oliver.” The letter alleges that the Boras Corp. induced him to switch to his representation with equipment and promises of private coaching. The ensuing investigation — which resulted in Oliver's suspension — was described in an email by Williams as a joint investigation by the NCAA and OSU. The investigation turned up a number of possible violations, including: •Allegations of negotiation between the Barattas and the Minnesota Twins regarding Oliver's contract. •A verbal agreement for deferred payment based on a percentage of a future professional contract. •Impermissible benefits provided by the Boras Corporation. Since then, according to a letter from Williams to the NCAA obtained as a court document, OSU and the NCAA have agreed that a violation occurred when there was direct contact between the Twins and the Barattas. The school and the NCAA also agreed that no violations occurred on two of the charges — those regarding a verbal or implied agreement between Oliver and the Barattas or Oliver and the Boras Corporation for future representation, and the charge that Oliver received impermissible benefits from the Boras Corporation. The two areas where OSU is seeking interpretations — the step Williams said must be completed before OSU can request reinstatement — regard an "agent charging fee on a deferred payment schedule” and "provision of services by adviser without appropriate compensation.” Darren Heitner, who runs sportsagentblog.com and has followed the affair closely, said that in the scheme of things any possible violations are minor. "The problem here is that while the NCAA tries its best to distinguish advisers from agents, often times there's a gray area,” Heitner said. "I'm not trying to draw any conclusions, but compared to a lot of the infractions you have going on this Andy Oliver affair is very small. They have a lot bigger fish to fry.”
The lawsuitOliver filed a lawsuit in June, which names the Barattas, Icon Sports Group, attorneys Robert Martin and Brian Goldberg of Cincinnati and the NCAA. When the NCAA responded in a statement that it had not ruled Oliver ineligible and that decision was "Oklahoma State's alone,” OSU was added to the suit. In the lawsuit, Oliver alleges that the attorneys breached their contracts, produced "bogus, fictitious, and fraudulent documents to (Oliver) and the NCAA,” attempted to extort money from Oliver and charged an unreasonable legal fee. OSU, the suit alleges, "fraudulently led (Oliver) to believe that it was on his side, when it had a material conflict of interest and when its primary interest was in protecting itself against a major infraction penalty that might be imposed by the defendant NCAA rather than protecting (Oliver's) athletic eligibility.” The suit, which seeks the reinstatement of Oliver's athletic eligibility, also cites the OSU student code of conduct, saying OSU did not allow Oliver any due process rights during the investigation and that OSU and the NCAA suspended Oliver "before they even finished their investigation.”
What now?OSU baseball coach Frank Anderson said he's hopeful that Oliver will be reinstated, but that he isn't involved in the process nearly as much as the compliance staff. "I just know what Scott Williams tells me and I'm really hoping it turns out for the best,” Anderson said. Between Oliver and Tyler Lyons, who both spent the summer playing for the USA National Team, OSU would have one of the best 1-2 pitching lineups in the country next season if Oliver can return. Because of the new baseball transfer rules, Oliver could not transfer and play this season, his last before he becomes eligible for the MLB draft. Without a timetable on when the NCAA will make a decision on the rule interpretations OSU turned in last month, it's hard to say if or when OSU will be able to file for Oliver's reinstatement. "Everyone feels like it's his fault his team lost in the College World Series, and that's terrible for a 20-year old kid to have to deal with,” Johnson said. "And now everyone is just shrugging their shoulders and pointing at each other. It's frustrating.”
OSU baseball coach Frank Anderson hopes Andrew Oliver will be reinstated. BY MATT STRASEN, THE OKLAHOMAN