The state of Pennsylvania will file an anti-trust lawsuit against the NCAA, seeking a dismissal of all Penn State sanctions levied last summer. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett claimed the NCAA has operated beyond their authority in punishing Penn State following the release of the Freeh Report, an independent investigation paid for by Penn State's Board of Trustees to detail the responses taken in the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
"I believe that the NCAA has no authority and operated outside of their own bylaws to issue these sanctions," Corbett said in a stern press conference.
Penn State was punished by the NCAA in the form of significant scholarship reductions, a four-year postseason ban and a $60 million fine. In addition, Penn State was forced to vacate over 100 wins from the NCAA record books, a move regarded by some as a way to punish and tarnish the reputation of former head football coach Joe Paterno, who has been tied to the Sandusky scandal along with former university president, athletic director and official.
"They punished past, present and future students, student athletes, local residents and citizens of Pennsylvania," Corbett said. "I found myself asking the question: 'Why would the NCAA involve themselves in something already being handled in the courts?"
According to Corbett, the NCAA leadership should have allowed those involved in the Sandusky scandal to be punished in the courts. Instead, Corbett claims, the NCAA leaders worked to allow the organization to bring down Penn State's football program, harming other Penn State programs as a result.
Corbett's statements Wednesday contradict what he said following the release of the NCAA sanctions. Corbett's response at the time was suggesting Penn State should accept the sanctions and move on.
"We have taken a monster off the streets and while we will never be able to repair the injury done to these children, we must repair the damage to this university," Corbett said in July 2012. “Part of that corrective process is to accept the serious penalties imposed today by the NCAA on Penn State University and its football program."
Since making those statements, the state of Pennsylvania and NCAA have quarreled over how the fine money should be divided. This standoff may have played a role in getting the state to take more action.
The fine money, which is scheduled to paid over the course of four years in annual payment installment to an account designated to be used for child abuse prevention awareness, was initially believed to be the focus of the lawsuit. Instead, Corbett says the lawsuit will look to challenge all aspects of the NCAA sanctions, but he encourages Penn State to continue donating money toward child abuse prevention awareness. Penn State made their first payment toward the $60 million fine at the end of 2012.
The NCAA has responded to Corbett's statement and lawsuit, saying it is a detriment to the good will done so far by Penn State.
“We are disappointed by the Governor's action today," said Donald M. Remy, NCAA Executive Vice President and General Counsel in a written statement released by the NCAA. "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.”
Corbett confirmed Penn State was not invited to join the state in the lawsuit, but the university was advised of the lawsuit and will be regularly updated on the status as needed. Corbett's press conference from State College had many members of the Penn State community standing behind him as he addressed the media.
The timing of the lawsuit news is worth noting. Corbett said the state waited to file the lawsuit until after the college football season. The reason Corbett claimed the lawsuit came out now was so there was not another distraction taking place during the course of the football season. In doing so Corbett commended the work done by the university and head coach Bill O'Brien under the weight of the heavy sanctions being challenged.
Critics to Corbett's apparent flip-flopping on the NCAA sanctions have led some to believe this is just a political stunt to win back lost trust among voters with strong connections or feelings about Penn State. Corbett's role in the investigation in to Sandusky have been placed under a microscope for a while now, leading some to scoff at Corbett leading the fight against the NCAA.
The lawsuit from Pennsylvania was said to be filed Wednesday, but any timeline regarding the court process is still unknown, as is how long this could take to play out.