NCAA Hands Sowers Minor Suspension

By John Manuel
February 1, 2002

Vanderbilt lefthander Jeremy Sowers, rated as the nation’s top freshman, must sit out the Commodores’ first six games because of a minor NCAA rules violation.

The violation involves Sowers’ negotiations with the Reds after the 2001 draft. Picked with the 20th overall selection, Sowers and his family sought advice regarding a proposed contract. According to NCAA policy, advisors (the NCAA’s euphemism for agents who have not been paid) and professional sports teams are not permitted to have contact on behalf of a student-athlete.

In this instance, such contact did occur and it was ruled a secondary (minor) violation.

“My family and I thought the ruling was unjust,” said Sowers, who is expected to miss two starts. “But in the big picture I understand that we have no recourse but to move ahead. My focus has been to prepare for a challenging season and that is what I’ve been doing. I will have ample opportunity to compete.”

Vanderbilt appealed the NCAA decision, saying that Sowers did nothing wrong, received no material benefit and had been saying all along he planned to play in college. The appeal was denied. Most observers concluded early that the Reds drafted him specifically not to sign him, after having borrowed from the 2001 draft budget to sign 2000 picks David Espinoza and Dane Sardinha.

“We were very disappointed with the NCAA’s position,” Commodores Coach Roy Mewbourne said. “The Sowers family took great pains to handle everything properly so any penalty seems extremely harsh to us. We’ve known about this for some time so it does not upset our season’s plans as much as we think it’s unfair to an honest student-athlete.”