Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett, in a press conference on Wednesday, announced that the NCAA overstepped its boundaries in levying the highly publicized and heavy sanctions it did against the Penn State athletic program.
Thus, Corbett and the state of Pennsylvania has taken the unprecedented move of suing college sports’ overarching athletic body for violation of anti-trust laws, calling them “overreaching and unlawful”.
“A handful of top NCAA officials simply asserted themselves into an issue they had no authority to police under their own bylaws, and one that was clearly being handled by the justice system,” Corbett said at a news conference.
Corbett did not release a draft of the complaint, which was filed with the Third Circuit Court of the United States on Wednesday. Not only does it simply state that the $60 million fine, the four-year bowl ban, the vacating of 10 years’ worth of wins and loss of scholarships is unacceptable, but that all of the punishments must be thrown out in their entirety.
Another suit claims that the NCAA violated anti-trust laws because there was a threat of even harsher punishment, such as that handed down to Southern Methodist, when the entire football program was disbanded for a year.
Still more, Corbett claims that the matter was a criminal one, with nothing to do with sports in the first place.
“These sanctions did not punish Sandusky,” Corbett told reporters, “nor did they punish the others who have been criminally charged. Rather, they punished the past, the present, the local businesses and the citizens of Pennsylvania.”
The NCAA has issued a statement in response to the press conference and the pending allegations.
“We are disappointed by the Governor’s action today,” a statement from Donald M. Remy, NCAA executive vice president and general counsel read. “Not only does this forthcoming lawsuit appear to be without merit, it is an affront to all of the victims in this tragedy — lives that were destroyed by the criminal actions of Jerry Sandusky. While the innocence that was stolen can never be restored, Penn State has accepted the consequences for its role and the role of its employees and is moving forward. Today’s announcement by the Governor is a setback to the University’s efforts.”
This is a very difficult, tenuous situation. There are, first and foremost, the victims that must be both honored and finally placated by the efforts of those making decisions in the present day after so many failed them when they were children. Eight of them, now grown up, provided chilling and sometimes graphically horrific testimony at the criminal trial of Jerry Sandusky.
Then, of course, there is the NCAA, which obviously hoped to show their strength after having the fleece pulled over their eyes for so many years by an institution that was seen as a bastion of academic and athletic sanctity and prestige.
There is the family of former head coach Joe Paterno. Joe Pa had been the winningest coach in college football history before 10 years of his wins were vacated. Even more importantly to the family of the now deceased Paterno, the good name of a man who coached the Nittany Lions for a lifetime has been tarnished forever. In a statement provided to the media on Wednesday, they stated their support of Corbett’s efforts, claiming the governor “now realizes, as do many others, that there was an inexcusable rush to judgment”.
There is Sandusky, the devil at the middle of the entire thing, now rotting away in federal penitentiary for the next 30-60 years. He still maintains that, while he did shower with boys, he did not molest them.
There are the men like Corbett, members of the Penn State University Board of Trustees, who happily accepted the punishments given because, again, they could have been so much more harsh.
Corbett himself a board member, said last year, at the time of the announcement of the heavy penalties, that part of the “corrective process is to accept the serious penalties.”
There are new players and factors involved that may be the reason for the timing of Corbett’s announcement. First, the school’s current football coach, Bill O’Brien, was reportedly told when he accepted the job that the Sandusky matter was a criminal one and would not result in any sanctions for the school’s athletics program. That, of course, turned out to be wrong and there are currently rumors circulating that the lie may be enough to push the Big Ten Coach of the Year back up to the professional ranks.
As for Corbett himself, the governor is headed into an election year, and the vast majority of his constituency believes the entire handling of the Sandusky matter — from the molestations to Paterno’s willful negligence and all the way up to the sanctions — was poor at the very best.
Corbett, a Republican, was the state’s attorney general between 2009 and 2011, when he was elected governor. The state – and thus the attorney general, Corbett — took on the Sandusky case in early 2009.
Kathleen Kane, a Democrat, is scheduled to be sworn in as the state of Pennsylvania’s newest attorney general.
She ran on a vow to investigate why it took state prosecutors nearly three years to charge Sandusky.
Corbett did not approach Kane at all regarding the current efforts of the state to sue the NCAA. Instead, Corbett got the approval to move forward and pursue the lawsuit from outgoing attorney general Linda Kelly, also a Republican.
Meanwhile, as Corbett works to placate his electorate with this lawsuit, the actual university has done nothing but work with the NCAA in handling the punishments the best they can.
Penn State is in no way involved in Corbett’s and the state’s suit.
“The University is committed to full compliance with the Consent Decree, the Athletics Integrity Agreement and, as appropriate, the implementation of the Freeh report recommendations,” the statement read. “We look forward to continuing to work with Sen. George Mitchell as the athletic integrity monitor for complete fulfillment of the Athletics Integrity Agreement. We recognize the important role that intercollegiate athletics provides for our student athletes and the wider University community. Penn State continues to move forward with an unwavering commitment to excellence and integrity in all aspects of our University and continues to be a world-class educational institution of which our students, faculty, staff and alumni can be justifiably proud.”
In the age of 24-hour news and Twitter, court cases always take a long time to unfold.
There are still many, many moving parts to this story and to this lawsuit.
One just hopes, no matter what happens in terms of dollar bills and wins and games and whatever else, that political minds such as Tom Corbett, Kathleen Kane, and those representing the NCAA don’t lose sight of the individuals who’s lives were ruined by the actions of a man who was allowed to coach at a publicly funded university for years.
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