Ace still in the hole
OSU's Oliver continues to wait for reinstatement

By Andrea Cohen Published: August 6, 2008
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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 alleged violations
In 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. Read the complaint