Jan. 4, 2012
2011 preseason feature on Peter O'Brien
O’Brien’s Status at Miami Still
By Sean Ryan
Bethune-Cookman catcher Peter O’Brien (left), whose quest to
play for Miami this season has taken much longer than many
anticipated, should find out whether he can suit up for the
Hurricanes within the next few weeks.
But there appears to be another hurdle.
According to Mervyl Melendez, O’Brien’s coach at
Bethune-Cookman for three seasons, O’Brien is expecting to meet
with the NCAA this month and a final decision on whether the
All-American catcher can play this season for the Hurricanes
should come shortly after that meeting.
“When I talked to him on Christmas Day, he said
he has an interview with the NCAA in January, and that will
decide his fate,” said Melendez, who left Bethune-Cookman after
the 2011 season to take the head job at Alabama State. “Peter
and I were very, very close and we’re still very close; he was
more than a player to me, he was like a son. He still is.”
O’Brien, who was drafted in the third round by
the Colorado Rockies but chose not to sign, enrolled at Miami
for the fall semester and requested a waiver from the NCAA to
play for the Hurricanes this season rather than sitting out a
season per NCAA rules. An answer was expected during the fall,
and coach Jim Morris tweeted on Dec. 18 that “Hopefully this
will be the week we hear about O’Brien.”
But O’Brien and the Hurricanes entered the New
Year in the same limbo they have been for the past few months, a
seemingly long time for a resolution.
“The waiver review you are asking about is
ongoing, but a final decision is expected within the next few
weeks,” said Cameron Schuh, associate director for public and
media relations for the NCAA. Chris Freet, associate athletic
director for communications at Miami, said O’Brien’s waiver
process is not complete and that the NCAA hasn’t given any
approval or denial and that the school couldn’t comment any
Division I college baseball players in good
academic standing could transfer to another Division I school
without sitting out a year until 2008, when the NCAA changed the
rule to require players to sit out a year like in basketball and
However, there are exceptions.
is asking the NCAA for an exception to play immediately because
the former star at Miami’s Braddock High School chose the
Hurricanes so he could be closer to the home of his mother, who
is in failing health.
Melendez wouldn’t specify O’Brien’s mother’s
illness, but he said it was “serious.”
“She’s a very strong woman, she’s not going to
show you any sign of sickness or weakness,” Melendez said. “We
all knew what she was going through…she attended as many games
as she could. They are a very close family.”
Matt Burgemeister, the assistant commissioner in
charge of compliance services for the Western Athletic
Conference, spent four years with the NCAA working on academic
and eligibility issues, including transfers. He isn’t familiar
with O’Brien’s story but said that waivers for one-time
transfers can take as little as three to five weeks for the NCAA
to decide if they are cut and dry and depending on the urgency
of the waiver. In this case, it’s possible there could have been
other cases of issues that took priority.
Burgemeister added that if there were situations
of disagreement between the previous school, new school and
student athlete, that could cause back and forth communication
and delays. Melendez believes O’Brien has the blessing of
Bethune-Cookman and Athletic Director Lynn Thompson and said,
“He did it the right way…The things that needed to happen were
happening on our end for them to grant that for him.”
Regarding the health of a parent, Burgemeister
said, “Generally, if it can be documented that an immediate
family member or some other close relative has an illness or a
hardship that they should be closer to home…if they are in fact
providing some level of support to that individual, generally,
those types of waivers are approved.”
Burgemeister speculated that getting
documentation of a family member’s condition could explain the
length of the delay. He said he wasn’t familiar with the part of
the process where a student athlete would interview with the
NCAA regarding his transfer eligibility.
O’Brien, a second-team Louisville Slugger
preseason All-American as selected by Collegiate Baseball,
put together a stellar career at Bethune-Cookman. After hitting
.314 with four homers and 30 RBI as a freshman, he exploded in
2010 with a .386 average, 20 homers and 56 RBI. He was selected
as one of two catchers for Team USA that summer. As a junior, he
batted .304 with 14 homers and 69 RBI.
The Rockies snagged O’Brien in the third round.
During negotiations, O’Brien began exploring the possibility of
transferring to Miami.
“It was unfortunate he didn’t sign, but I’m sure
his mother’s illness had a lot to do with him not taking the
offer from the Rockies,” Melendez said.
(left) said he was surprised that O’Brien fell to the third
round and didn’t get the offer O’Brien was expecting. He added
that he didn’t think O’Brien was treated fairly by a lot of
scouts and wasn’t treated like an ACC or SEC player.
“I was surprised by a lot of things,” Melendez
said. “He was treated a little unfair. I voiced my opinion to a
lot of the scouts I came into contact with. He felt a little
disrespected. The Rockies didn’t come with a strong offer at the
end…you would think they would be willing to work with him.”
Melendez expects O’Brien to do very well at Miami
if granted his waiver. He said his former catcher hit better
against better pitching, and the ball travels better at the
Hurricanes’ Mark Light Field than it does at the Wildcats’
Jackie Robinson Stadium. If the waiver request is denied,
Melendez said O’Brien probably would continue to work out at
Miami in preparation for the draft, or he could sign with an
Like many, though, Melendez believes the NCAA
will approve O’Brien’s waiver request.
“I don’t think the NCAA will penalize him,”
Melendez said. “We’re talking about him being with his ill
(photos courtesy of B-CU Media