University of Kentucky left-handed starting pitcher James Paxton has officially left the team after his latest appeal of his lawsuit against the university was denied. Paxton was accused of violating the no-agent rule in his negotiations with the Toronto Blue Jays after being selected in the first supplemental round of the 2009 draft and had sued UK in an attempt to circumvent a meeting with NCAA investigators. UK head coach Gary Henderson told BluGrass Baseball the news after UK’s 6-4 victory over Bowling Green State Friday:
James has decided not to play with us. What I can tell you is the University of Kentucky and Gary Henderson have done everything they can to try and convince James to be a part of this baseball team. We wanted him to be a part of our club; he could certainly make us a better team. I think it would have been the best decision for him baseball wise, but he’s decided not to do that.”
I asked Henderson about the news’ effect on defacto ace Alex Meyer and whether he would face added pressure without Paxton. Henderson’s response:
Oh…I don’t know. Somebody’s going to have to [step up]. Maybe it’s Logan [Darnell] maybe it’s Alex [Meyer] maybe it’s Taylor Rogers. It clearly changes our bullpen. Somebody is going to start that would have been in the bullpen if James was here.”
UPDATE 9 p.m.: UK has released its official statement about Paxton’s decision:
The University of Kentucky is very disappointed in James Paxton’s decision to not meet with the NCAA about a potential amateurism issue. No one wanted James on the mound in a Kentucky uniform more than UK head coach Gary Henderson, athletics director Mitch Barnhart and the UK Athletics staff. Due to the possibility of future penalties, including forfeiture of games, UK could not put the other 32 players of the team and the entire UK 22-sport intercollegiate athletics department at risk by having James compete. It’s about the team and giving student-athletes the opportunity to achieve their goals. Throughout the process, UK has remained confident that James would be able to pitch for Kentucky during the 2010 season and UK offered every bit of assistance to aid James in that NCAA process.
UK does not know all the facts of last summer’s post-draft interaction among James, his advisors and the Toronto Blue Jays and has not prejudged his situation. James has an obligation under NCAA Bylaw 10.1 (j) to answer questions that relate to his amateur status. On advice of his counsel, James has elected not to be interviewed by the NCAA. UK has offered to pursue an immediate application for reinstatement for James with the NCAA if that became necessary. However, no request for reinstatement of his eligibility can be made based on mitigating circumstances until the student-athlete and his family cooperate and make all facts known to UK, with the NCAA having the opportunity to verify those facts. UK has never been provided all pertinent information from James and his family, who are following the legal advice of his attorneys not to be interviewed by the NCAA. Without knowing all the facts, UK cannot present mitigating circumstances to the NCAA on James’ behalf.
UK is more optimistic than James and his family that any period of ineligibility could be shortened to allow James to pitch during the last and most important part of the season, the Southeastern Conference schedule. So it is disappointing that James is unwilling to go through the normal NCAA process, allowing UK to appeal for him, if necessary. The University of Kentucky is sad to see James leave its baseball team, especially after other players gave up portions of their scholarships in August so that he would have a substantial scholarship for his senior year.
While UK is extremely disappointed in the decision made by James to not meet with the NCAA, he will always be a member of the Wildcat family. UK hopes that James will stay and earn his degree and wishes him the best in his professional baseball career. Should James change his mind and be willing to cooperate with the NCAA inquiry, the door is open for him to return to the UK baseball team and UK will seek any immediate appeal necessary for his reinstatement.”