The Andrew Oliver saga took another turn Friday evening, as the NCAA filed a cross-claim against Oklahoma State. Last week, an Ohio court required Oliver to include Oklahoma State in his suit, but Oliver’s amended suit is seeking only an injunction against Oklahoma State that would restore his eligiblity; he is seeking injunctive relief and monetary damages from the NCAA.
The NCAA’s cross-claim against OSU argues that because Oliver was suspended by Oklahoma State and not by NCAA, the school has an obligation to contribute toward any monetary damages awarded to Oliver against the NCAA "to the extent that OSU’s actions have caused those monetary damages."
Oliver’s lawyer, Richard Johnson, wrote a letter to Judge Tygh M. Tone stating that the NCAA’s cross-claim is a frivolous attempt to delay the Jan. 5 trial date. Citing NCAA Bylaw 31.7.3, Johnson wrote that the NCAA "has no authority" to bring such a suit against one of its member schools, and that the NCAA "is required to defend, indemnify, and insure" member schools in these situations.
Johnson said Saturday that, to his knowledge, this is the first time the NCAA has sued one of its member institutions.
"We’re starting trial Jan. 5, and the NCAA instead of taking responsibility for its own actions, it is now trying to blame Oklahoma State for its own liability," Johnson said. "The fact of the matter is when Oklahoma State investigates and enforces the NCAA’s rules, it is acting as the NCAA’s agents. If these schools don’t investigate the kids, then the NCAA punishes them."
The NCAA’s cross-claim and Johnson’s response were available to the public because the protective order was dissolved and the gag order was lifted earlier in the week. The unsealed depositions, motions and expert witness reports should shed further light on this case as the Jan. 5 trial date approaches.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma State filed an appeal with the NCAA for Oliver to be reinstated, and that appeal was heard this week. In that appeal, Oliver’s eligibility was restored and his suspension was reduced from a full season to 70 percent of a season. If Oliver loses at trial and that punishment stands, he would be allowed to play 16 games in 2009 while sitting out 40. Vanderbilt lefthander Jeremy Sowers received a six-game punishment for a very similar infraction in 2002.
"Oklahoma State’s reinstatement application was really interesting, because they argue that he’s already been punished enough and should be allowed to play again," Johnson said. "I think that’s part of the reason (the NCAA is) suing Oklahoma State, because Oklahoma State is taking our side on this. But the real reason I think they filed the cross-claim is they want to delay the trial. And it’s not going to work."
NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said the NCAA would have no further comment on the Oliver case beyond this statement:
"We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision in how the NCAA must proceed in this case. We intend to aggressively use every legal avenue to defend ourselves in these proceedings."
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