College : : Story
Friday, February 21, 2014

Wetzler's suspension reignites debate

Kendall Rogers        

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SURPRISE, Ariz. – Oregon State senior left-handed pitcher Ben Wetzler has been suspended for 11 games (20-percent of the season), Oregon State University and the NCAA announced Friday afternoon in a coordinated set of news releases.

The situation surrounding Wetzler’s eligibility has been one of the hottest topics in amateur and professional baseball over the past week amidst a report the Philadelphia Phillies, the team that drafted him in the fifth-round of the 2013 Major League Baseball draft, allegedly turned him into the NCAA for using an advisor (agent) in negotiation, and in turn, choosing to return to OSU for his senior season.

The Phillies aren’t expected to address that report, but Wetzler’s situation has reached a resolution, and thus, has sparked the always-intense debate about the use of advisors/agents in negotiations against professional negotiators in professional baseball.

For some background on the situation, the NCAA notified Oregon State in November of its intent to conduct an investigation on the use of an advisor in negotiations. In turn, OSU went through its own internal investigation, and despite finding Wetzler to not intentionally be in the wrong, proposed a self-imposed penalty of 10-percent of the game sin 2014 college baseball season.

The NCAA denied the self-imposed penalty. In a statement released Friday, the NCAA says this: “Wetzler sought help from an agent who attended meetings where he [Wetzler] negotiated contract terms with the team,” the statement said. “The NCAA rules allow a baseball student-athlete to receive advice from a lawyer or agent regarding a proposed professional sports contract. However, if the student-athlete is considering returning to an NCAA school, that advisor may not negotiate on behalf of the student-athlete or be present during discussions of a contract offer, including phone calls, email or in-person conversations.”

Technically, the NCAA, nor Oregon State, officially suspended Wetzler or declared him ineligible until now. However, the Beavers had no choice but to sit him out the first two weekends of the season because of forfeiting concerns. The NCAA and OSU made it abundantly clear the university and Wetzler fully cooperated with the investigation.

Oregon State vice president Steve Clark took a hardline stance against the NCAA and the practice of not allowing student-athletes to have representation against professional organizations.

“This is really a shame. To be clear, Ben received no money, nor did he enter into an agreement with the intent of hiring an agent to negotiate on his behalf,” Clark said in a statement. “The violation was a technicality, and we strongly believe that it is overly harsh for him to lose 20-percent of his senior season because of that.”

Oregon State head coach Pat Casey echoed Clark’s sentiments.

“I am 100-percent in support of Ben and his decision to come back to finish his college experience at OSU,” he said. “I am extremely disappointed in the circumstances in this particular case. I believe the sanction is too harsh, but I look forward to Ben having an impact on this club this spring.”

Wetzler briefly addressed the decision on Twitter.

“I am truly glad to finally put all this behind me and get back into the trenches with my brothers.”

Though the Wetzler situation is officially closed, the potential controversy surrounding the Phillies’ involvement might just be getting started. With that said, at the least, the last week’s drama has reignited the ongoing debate about allowing players in college baseball to have advisors, and thus amending the agent-advisor relationship rule at some point in the near future.

There was the drama surrounding Andy Oliver’s getting declared ineligible the night before an NCAA Regional opener, Kentucky’s James Paxton being declared ineligible, the Padres mentioning Florida’s Karsten Whitson having an advisor in a national newspaper, and now Ben Wetzler, who chose to come back to school for his senior season as a student-athlete, becoming a prime, though random, target in a practice that is rampant – understandably so – in college baseball.

Once and for all, this might finally ignite change.

“The NCAA should have the best interests of student-athletes in mind, and it should certainly question the rules it his in place,” Clark said. “Having seen the amateurism rules in action, OSU believes the NCAA should take a serious look with an eye toward revising the rules on amateur status, and find new ways to help student-athletes navigate the high-pressure negotiations of professional sports to make the best life choices.”

Wetzler will make his debut on Sunday, March 2, against Wright State.


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