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MSU baseball coach John Cohen named in civil suit by former player

 

David Miller

 

STARKVILLE -- A lawsuit field Wednesday on behalf of former Mississippi State pitcher Forrest Moore claims MSU coach John Cohen and Mississippi State mishandled an injury and damaged his chances for a pro career.  

 

The 17-page document filed with Oktibbeha County Court obtained by the Commercial Dispatch also names Mississippi State Senior Associate A.D./Media Relations, Corporate Development Mike Nemeth in the suit.  

 

Though no exact dollar figures were mentioned in the suit, Moore is seeking to be compensated for punitive damages, compensatory damages, actual and consequential damages, and litigation and attorney fees.  

 

Moore also claims Cohen to have broken NCAA practice rules and to have rescinded his scholarship improperly. 

 

Three causes of action were named in the suit: breach of contract; intentional/tortious interference with contract; and civil conspiracy. 

 

Moore is being represented by Harris Shelton Hanover Walsh PLLC of Memphis, Tenn. Oxford-based lawyer Doug Foster filed the complaint. 

 

Moore, a pitcher who played only one season under Cohen in 2009, alleges the coach to have ignored an elbow injury, initially diagnosed as tendinitis by team doctor Rusty Linton, also mentioned in the complaint. The document states Moore later had an MRI done and was diagnosed by Dr. Michael Buehler, who performed the MRI, with a strain to the ulnar collateral ligament. 

 

This MRI was reviewed by Linton, who determined the injury was a muscle strain.  

 

Moore later met with renowned Birmingham, Ala. surgeon Dr. James Andrews, who concluded Moore had ligament damage and should not have pitched just a week after Moore started and lost at Vanderbilt.  

 

Despite not playing for the Bulldogs in 2010, Moore was eventually drafted by the Florida Marlins in the 38th round of the 2010 MLB Draft, though he''s yet to pitch in a game at any level of the organization. 

 

Moore claims the mishandling of his elbow injury, which required surgery, ultimately led to him leaving the team after he was denied a medical redshirt and was told by Cohen his scholarship would not be renewed for the next season. 

 

Moore claims he wasn''t provided proper notice of scholarship non-renewal, which if true, would be an NCAA violation. 

 

Moore started seven games in his only season under Cohen, going 2-1 with a 5.91 ERA.  

 

He has since served as a volunteer coach at Starkville Academy during fall 2010 and spring 2011 before he left to return to workouts with the Marlins. 

 

Moore, a Baton Rouge native, didn''t answer a message left Friday afternoon.  

 

Moore claims that having an 80 percent scholarship, which he signed under former coach Ron Polk, was Cohen''s motivation to essentially "run him off." 

 

He cited excessive workouts that violate NCAA practice rules -- set at four hours a day or 20 hours a week -- and a "near death" incident in the fall of 2008, where he became dehydrated and "required hospitalization" according to information from Moore''s father and his doctors.  

 

When Cohen was reached Friday, he declined comment on the suit. 

 

"We''re focused on playing and winning our ball game tonight (at Ole Miss)," he said.  

 

Said Mississippi State director of athletics Scott Stricklin: "We are aware of the lawsuit filed by former baseball player Forrest Moore. We are confident that we operate our baseball program in compliance with the rules of the Southeastern Conference and the NCAA. We will allow the university''s general counsel to comment further on this legal matter." 

 

Nemeth didn''t answer a message left this afternoon.  

 

Mississippi State Senior Associate A.D. for Compliance Bracky Brett also declined comment.  

 

Outside of the suit and whatever monetary damages that may be awarded if Cohen and MSU are found at fault, there could be potential NCAA repercussions.  

 

Moore''s accusations of Cohen violating NCAA practice hours rules was based on prohibiting "members of the baseball team, including Moore, from completing the required athletically related activity time limit forms indicating the amount of practice time the coach required of the student-athlete." 

 

Similar to former Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez, whom the NCAA determined to have neglected to monitor his program thoroughly enough, there could be probation and a loss of access Cohen or other coaches could have during practices.  

 

Most NCAA penalties carry sanctions in the same area. For instance, if a coach makes too many recruiting phone calls, his punishment will be fewer recruiting phone calls. If you make illegal contact, you''ll lose contact. 

 

In the case of Rodriguez, whom Michigan found to be at fault in its plea bargain to the NCAA, he broke rules by having too many practice sessions and other off-the-field work. Former Michigan players also alleged excessive summer conditioning as punishment, which is similar to Moore''s claim of being forced to do conditioning after suffering what he claims to be a broken nose in practice. 

 

Though the allegations are similar, the players involved in the complaints against Rodriguez didn''t file a lawsuit against the coach.  

 

Michigan is currently serving a three-year probation period. 

 

 

 

 

The contents of this article have been modified since its original posting.

 

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Reader Comments

Article Comment wpmedic1 commented at 5/14/2011 7:28:00 PM:

This is the same lawyer that is representing the kid hit by the cowbell. Seems like a MSU witch hunt to me. If the Marlins thought the kid had no chance at a pro career they would have sent him home long ago. What a crybaby!!

 

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