Last night the New York Times came out with a report that beat all the local news outlets (there is a shock) about UK baseball player James Paxton’s lawsuit against the University. According to the Times article (linked below), Paxton was drafted last year by the Toronto Blue Jays prior to his Senior season. He decided not to sign with the Blue Jays, and instead came back to Kentucky for his Senior year. As is sometimes the case, this sparked a look by the NCAA into the circumstances and Paxton alleges that he was told by a UK official that he should meet with NCAA investigators, but should not tell his parents or have an attorney present. Paxton also alleges that Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart told him that if he did not meet with the NCAA, he would not be able to play for Kentucky this season.
I have not seem the lawsuit or the allegations made by Paxton and am solely relying on the NY Times story. However if its recitation of the facts are correct, this suit is part of a larger trend of suits against Universities to determine how the power of the NCAA can be used over athletes. Paxton’s attorney brought a similar suit against the NCAA, alleging that the organization’s decision to conduct an investigation of an Oklahoma State athlete without allowing him access to an attorney, violated the laws of the athlete’s home state. All of these cases have a similar theme, which is the testing of the NCAA’s near authoritarian control over its student-athletes and the potential that it (via state universities) does not give players their legal rights in making its decisions.
I have no idea how the Paxton case will play out or if the allegations have any merit. But the theme of the case is one that I believe we will continue to see. The NCAA (as shown in its ABSURD handling of the Memphis basketball affair) acts as if it answers to no one and only must follow its internal regulations. Cases like this one are seeking to change that.