Forrest Moore, a former baseball student-athlete, sued Mississippi State University (“MSU”), head baseball coach John Cohen (“Head Coach”), and associate athletics director Mike Nemeth (“Associate AD”) in Mississippi state court relating to the alleged termination of his scholarship. Mr. Moore claims he was recruited by former MSU head baseball coach Ron Polk and received an eighty percent (80%) scholarship after a “stellar high school pitching career.” After his freshman year, Coach Polk retired and MSU hired Head Coach who, according to Mr. Moore, never liked him and immediately requested that he take a reduction in scholarship. Mr. Moore did not agree to take a reduction in scholarship and his relationship with Head Coach was nothing short of volatile.
Mr. Moore claims Head Coach required baseball student-athletes to practice far in excess of the practice hour limitations placed on MSU by the NCAA. In fact, Mr. Moore claims Head Coach specifically tried to hide the excessive hours the MSU baseball team practiced by not allowing student-athletes to complete practice time sheets. During these “impermissible practices,” Mr. Moore claims he began to feel pain in the elbow and forearm of his pitching arm. After reporting the pain, Mr. Moore was referred to the team doctor who labeled his pain as “forearm tendonitis.” Although Mr. Moore was supposed to be rehabbing his elbow, he claims Head Coach required him to throw extensive bullpen sessions and pitch in and start non-conference and conference games. Mr. Moore claims his pain continued to increase and he informed the training staff and Head Coach of his continued pain, yet they required that he continue to pitch. After begging MSU to provide for an MRI, Mr. Moore finally submitted to an MRI, which the team doctor again referred to as a forearm strain. Mr. Moore was not happy with the evaluation and took it upon himself to schedule an appointment with world renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews. Dr. Andrews confirmed he had a tear of his ulnar collateral ligament.
Mr. Moore claims if appropriate steps had been taken when he first reported his injury, then his injury would likely not have been so severe. After informing Head Coach of the extent of his injury, Mr. Moore claims Head Coach immediately stripped his scholarship (a claim Head Coach denies) without written notification or the opportunity for a hearing in violation of NCAA financial aid legislation. Mr. Moore requested a medical red-shirt to allow him to rehab his injury, but Head Coach would not agree to allow him to receive a medical red-shirt (the petition is unclear whether Mr. Moore is saying the Head Coach would not work with compliance to submit the necessary paperwork for a medical red-shirt or he did not qualify for a medical red-shirt). Mr. Moore then claims Associate AD made a “one-time offer” to allow him to retain his scholarship as a permanent medical (i.e., he could no longer compete, but would remain on scholarship thereby not affecting the baseball team’s equivalency). Mr. Moore explains he had little choice, but to accept the offer because he did not have money to pay for school.
As a result of the alleged aforementioned conduct, Mr. Moore sued MSU, Head Coach, and Associate AD on theories of breach of contract (i.e., his scholarship), intentional/tortuous interference with a contract, and civil conspiracy. The contractual claims relate to failure to provide written notice of termination of his aid and failure to provide the opportunity for a financial aid hearing. The conspiracy claims indicate Head Coach and Associate AD conspired to 1) deny Mr. Moore his scholarship renewal; 2) deny Mr. Moore a medical red-shirt; 3) deny Mr. Moore the process required by the NCAA when a scholarship is not renewed; 4) prevent Mr. Moore from rehabilitating his injuries and participate in baseball at MSU; and 5) deny Mr. Moore the opportunity to be evaluated by major league baseball scouts.
It should be noted that Head Coach has filed a motion to dismiss the claims set forth against him and has argued 1) Mr. Moore’s complaint is factually incorrect; and 2) he is immune from suit under Mississippi law due to his status as a state employee.