A Kentucky judge ruled Friday night that the University of Kentucky can withhold lefthander James Paxton from games until he meets with an NCAA investigator to clear up questions about his eligibility.
The Associated Press reported that Fayette County Circuit Judge James Ishmael denied Paxton's request to stop the school from benching him for his refusal to answer undisclosed questions from the NCAA. Paxton, an unsigned first-round pick who likely violated the NCAA's "no agent" rule during contract negotiations with the Blue Jays last summer, was banking on the court protecting his due process rights by applying UK's student code to student-athletes.
"That is clearly not part of the student code," Ishmael said in his ruling, issued shortly before 10 p.m. Friday. "I don't see how in the world a student code can address the NCAA eligibility of a student athlete."
A media report last summer quoted Blue Jays interim president Paul Beeston saying that the Jays did not get the opportunity to speak with Paxton during negotiations. Instead, according to Beeston, they dealt with Paxton's adviser, Scott Boras—a clear violation of the "no agent" rule. Kentucky said in Friday's hearing that it has no direct evidence Boras negotiated on Paxton's behalf, but Ishmael's ruling means the NCAA does not have to meet the UK student code's higher burden of proof, so the media report might be sufficient for the NCAA to determine a violation occurred.
Paxton's next move is unclear, but his strategy so far in these proceedings suggests he is unlikely to drop the fight and submit to a meeting with the NCAA. As we reported last month, the NCAA has changed the presumptive penalty for violations of the "no agent" rule to permanent ineligibility, and the NCAA seems bent on making an example out of Paxton to re-establish the clout of the "no agent" rule after it was invalidated during the Andy Oliver case last year (a ruling was later thrown out as part of the settlement). Paxton has the right to appeal, and my guess is that he will.
UPDATE: One of Paxton's attorneys, Rick Johnson, e-mailed the following to media Saturday evening: "Friday evening, the court denied my client's motion for a temporary injunction. We have a right to an immediate and accelerated appeal of the denial of the injunction, and we are considering this and other options at the moment."
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