Judge gives NCAA seven days

Updated: May 13, 2009, 10:01 PM ET
By Keith Law | ESPN.com

The Ohio Judge who struck down an NCAA bylaw prohibiting college baseball players from using legal advisors to negotiate with major league baseball teams has ruled that the NCAA appears to be in contempt of that ruling.

Judge Tygh Tone ordered the NCAA to show cause within seven days why it should not be held in contempt.

Oklahoma State pitcher Andrew Oliver was ruled ineligible by the NCAA last spring because it said that a lawyer he had hired listened in on contract negotiations after he was drafted out of high school by Minnesota in 2006.

Judge Tone issued a temporary restraining order against the NCAA last August of 2008, and reinstated Oliver in February when he voided the NCAA rule. That cleared the way athletes to use attorneys as representatives without forfeiting their amateur status.

On May 6, the judge wrote that, "contrary the [the NCAA's] rhetoric, the February entry did not presume to void an NCAA rule, it did void an NCAA rule."

On May 11, the NCAA sent a memo to high school players that indicated it intended to appeal the February ruling. The memo also indicated that, while appealing, the NCAA intended to continue enforcing the voided bylaw, saying that "much of the reporting on this subject has been inaccurate," and that "the NCAA believes the court's ruling is limited in scope."

Rick Johnson, the attorney for Oliver in the original lawsuit, said of the May 11 memo: "They're directly violating the judge's order. There was no mistake from [Feb. 12] forward what the judge's order meant."

Johnson, who filed a motion pointed out that the NCAA acknowledged that Judge Tone's Feb. 12 ruling was global in scope, using the following text in their appeal:

"The sheer scope of the [T]rial Court's order is no less than breathtaking. In its effort to grant [the] Plaintiff the ability to participate in a handful of additional college baseball games, the [T]rial [C]ourt substituted its subjective judgment for that of the [Defendant] NCAA's membership and, with a stroke of the pen, "voided" long-standing, fundamental rules across all sports and all divisions of a national, private organization.

"Indeed, it is important to note that the [T]rial [C]ourt's ruling was not confined to [the] Plaintiff's individual sport, or the NCAA division of which OSU is a member. Rather, its broad brush extends to schools large and small in Divisions I, II and III, and to hundreds of thousands of student-athletes who participate in every NCAA-sanctioned sport."

An NCAA spokesman issued a written statement to ESPN.com, saying, in part: "The NCAA has deep respect for the integrity of all court orders. We have obeyed and will continue to obey all court orders issued relative to this case. The NCAA has an obligation to keep its members informed."

The spokesman declined further comment.

"They think that they are not subject to congress state legislatures or the courts, they believe they are an entity unto themselves," Johnson said. "It is an amazing level of arrogance unmatched by anything I've ever seen."

The use of advisers is common for amateur baseball prospects who are likely to be selected in the top-five rounds, including high school players who may attend college rather than sign with the team that drafts them.

The bylaw that said the players would forfeit their amateur eligibility if the advisers negotiated on their behalf with major league clubs was seldom enforced before the former agent for Oliver reported a violation after Oliver terminated their relationship.

The NCAA has seven days to respond to the Judge's demand for all communications relating to the May 11 memo and to prior comments to the New York Times regarding their opinion that the Feb. 12 ruling was limited.

The judge will hold an evidentiary hearing in the Erie County Court of Common Pleas on May 27. The penalty phase of the original trial is still scheduled for October.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.