ASU baseball takes another hit…this time in the courts

Just when it appeared it was safe to come out from cover following Arizona State’s battle with the NCAA over its baseball program, someone lobs another grenade.

Michael Rooney, ASU’s former director of baseball operations, is suing the school; its vice president of athletics, Lisa Love; its senior associate athletic director, Don Bocchi, and the NCAA.

According to a report in the Courthouse News Service (CNS), Rooney claims ASU conspired with the NCAA to “defame, fire and maliciously prosecute him” during the 2009 NCAA investigation of possible recruiting violations in the baseball program.

The investigation of the baseball program has already cost the school in other ways.  ASU admitted two major recruiting violations and announced self-imposed sanctions that included scholarship reductions and recruiting restrictions.

The Sun Devils were also banned from post-season play last year, but the school appealed the ruling and was declared eligible to extend their season.  They fell just short of a 23rd appearance in the College World Series when they lost in the Super Regional to Texas, but finished the season ranked No. 10 in the country.

To make matters worse, the program lost one of its winningest coaches as a result of the investigation.  Pat Murphy, who had been at the helm of the program for 15 years, was asked to resign in November of 2009, just a day after the NCAA announced it was beginning its investigation.

Murphy had taken the program to four College World Series appearances, won four Pac-10 titles, and was a three-time conference Coach of the Year.

Interestingly, Murphy was not named in the complaint filed this week by Rooney in Maricopa County Court.  In the filing, Rooney claimed ASU had dealt with him with “great hostility and condemnation” during the investigation.

CNS further reports that, during a September, 2009, interview before the NCAA, Rooney alleges that the NCAA enforcement staff and ASU’s in-house counsel interrogated Rooney with the intent of placing blame on him and other members of the baseball program, “rather than hold ASU accountable for its failures.”

Rooney is seeking punitive damages for conspiracy, malicious prosecution, defamation, aiding and abetting malicious prosecution, interference with contract, aiding and abetting abuse of process, and violation of the First Amendment.

He’s pretty much covering the bases, so to speak.

Looks like it’s back to the battlefield for Love and company, as the Pat Murphy era continues to cast a long shadow over ASU baseball.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)