By MATTHEW STEVENS
Former Mississippi State University pitcher Forrest Moore has filed a 17-page lawsuit in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court against the university and MSU baseball coach John Cohen, claiming that negligence by the coaching staff contributed to an elbow injury.
The lawsuit further claims Cohen and MSU associate athletic director Mike Nemeth “conspired” to “drive Mr. Moore away from baseball” at MSU and that Cohen broke NCAA rules by exceeding practice time limits.
Additionally, the lawsuit identifies 10 unnamed “John Doe” defendants. The complaint accuses the university of breach of contract.
The lawsuit is seeking damages from a jury claiming the MSU baseball program is responsible for the deterioration of his pitching arm and causing an injury and the inability for 6-foot-1, 193-pound Moore to pursue a professional baseball career.
Cohen declined comment on the situation when reached via telephone Friday morning.
“We’re just trying to win a Southeastern Conference series this weekend and that’s all we’re focused on right now,” Cohen said.
A Baton Rogue, La., native, Moore made 29 appearances on the mound including 11 starts in his Mississippi State career between 2008-09 and compiled a 3-3 record with a 7.17 earned run average with one save and 87 strikeouts.
However, Moore was not a member of the 2010 MSU team but was still drafted in 2010 by the Marlins Organization but didn’t pitch a single inning last year in their rookie league. Moore’s father, Dana Moore of Baton Rogue, La., said in a telephone interview Friday that his son was in West Palm Beach going through extended spring training with the Florida Marlins organization.
“We are aware of the lawsuit filed by former baseball player Forrest Moore,” Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin said via a university statement. “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.”
Phone messages by Starkville Daily News sent to Stricklin, Nemeth and Moore’s attorney J. Douglas Foster were not immediately returned.
Foster, an attorney based in Oxford that concentrates his practice in personal injury and family law, is also representing a client that was allegedly attacked by a cowbell during the 2009 Egg Bowl football game at Davis Wade Stadium and is seeking damages from MSU and the Southeastern Conference for not enforcing rules that did not allow the possession in the stadium or arena of an artificial noisemaker at SEC games.
Forrest Moore’s father is one of the best known players from the 1979-81 MSU football Bulldogs and his mother is a former MSU cheerleader. Dana Moore hit the two field goals (a 37 and 22-yarder) that won MSU’s 1980 famous 6-3 victory over No.1-ranked Alabama in Jackson.
The elder Moore had a 50-yard punting average in the 1980 Sun Bowl, which State lost 31-17 to Nebraska, and one year later in the Hall of Fame Bowl, a game State won over Kansas 10-0, Moore set the contest record with a 49-yard average on nine punts.
In the lawsuit, Moore claims he was diagnosed with tendinitis during MSU’s 2009 season, but was never given treatment and that Cohen forced him to pitch in games and bullpen sessions despite the injury. The complaint claims the MSU coaching staff’s actions “undoubtedly” caused “additional damage to his pitching arm.”
Moore also claims that in the fall of 2008, baseball players were required to “practice in excess of the time permitted under the NCAA rules.” During one of these practices, Moore claims he became dehydrated, required hospitalization and was “nearing death.”
Cohen is in his third season at Mississippi State. All of Moore’s allegations are from Cohen’s first season. Coming into Friday night’s contest against Ole Miss, Cohen is 79-80 since returning as head coach to his alma mater and has already led Mississippi State to its highest single-season win total since being hired nearly three seasons ago.
According to the complaint, Cohen informed several former players recruited by former MSU head baseball coach Ron Polk that their scholarship allotment, meaning the percentage of their tuition being paid by the university, would be decreased.
The complaint also alleges potential NCAA rules violations that same fall of 2008 when the Moore claims alleges Cohen initiated workout routines longer than the allowed amount of practice hours in the offseason and in order to cover up the violation prohibited several former players including Moore from filing the required time limit application required by the NCAA to track such behavior of programs.
During one of those practices, Moore claims he began to feel dehydrated during a practice and “required hospitalization and was near death according to information provided by Moore and his doctors”.
In additional NCAA violations, Moore claims he was required to throw more pitches than he should have allowed to be engage in during preparation for the 2009 season and in order to cover up that fact, Cohen had players sign and uncompleted practice time sheet form that would later be filled out later by a person different than who signed it. It is in these statement of facts that began the basis of the reason for Moore’s assertion to Cohen being responsible for the deterioration of his pitching arm.
MSU director of athletic compliance Bracky Brett declined comment saying he had not yet spoken to the university’s legal counsel about the matter.
The conspiracy accusations of the claim begin when Moore claims after Cohen discovered he needed surgery to repair the ligament tear in his elbow, Moore claimed he was informed by the coaching staff that his scholarship would be taken away and Moore would not be granted a medical redshirt. Moore claims he was not given written notification of his scholarship being taken away and not given a hearing opportunity that is required according to NCAA rules.
NCAA officials were unable to verify when contacted Friday by the SDN if an investigation into the Mississippi State baseball program was or could be underway following the legal action.