The NCAA has asked Pennsylvania courts to dismiss a pair of lawsuits filed in January, claiming the state lacks the authority to challenge and interfere with the agreement between the NCAA and Penn State.
"The remedial measures that Penn State agreed to were controversial, and have elicited strong feelings on all sides," the NCAA's lawyers wrote according to a report published by CBSSports.com. "Some think they are too harsh, and some think they are too lenient. But none of those feelings have anything to do with the antitrust laws."
Penn State president Rodney Erickson signed a consent decree for the NCAA that opened the door for hefty sanctions from the NCAA. The agreement was for Penn State to receive whatever sanctions were handed down by the governing body of collegiate athletics without dispute. That decision meant Penn State could not contest a four-year postseason ban, severe reduction in scholarships for the football program and a $60 million fine to be paid over a four-year period. The state is arguing the NCAA overstepped their bounds to punish the university in such a fashion. The Pennsylvania state-filed lawsuit seeks to overturn all aspects of the NCAA's sanctions, which also includes the vacation of over 100 football wins.
"In his lawsuit, Governor Corbett seeks to invalidate the sanctions, to which Penn State agreed," a statement issued on the NCAA's website reads. "As our filings make clear, the Governor is attempting to use the courts to usurp authority given to Penn State. While he is attempting to use the federal antitrust laws as the basis for his claims, the courts have already stated that antitrust laws do not apply when the NCAA is acting in a non-commercial capacity to regulate competition and enforce its own rules."
In addition to challenging the lawsuit led by Governor Corbett the NCAA is also challenging a lawsuit organized by Pennsylvania State Senator Jake Corman, which seeks to ensure all fine money paid by Penn State is reserved to support child abuse victims in the state of Pennsylvania. The NCAA believes a portion of the money paid by Penn State in to a reserved fund should be used to support child abuse victims beyond the state's borders.
"Pennsylvania law does not restrict the university’s expenditures of funds and the university will not use any state appropriated funds to pay the fines," the NCAA statement says. "Further, Pennsylvania law does not and could not control how an organization like a private endowment created by an NCAA fine donates its money."
Pennsylvania challenging the NCAA over Penn State's sanctions probably has little chance to succeed in court but it can be seen as a serious threat to the NCAA if the state is able to move the lawsuit forward. With the NCAA battling a number of public relations miscues with other institutions - most notably with an investigation focusing on Miami - the last thing the NCAA needs right now is for a state to build momentum in a case seeking to overturn NCAA sanctions. But the lawsuit may fail to have much room to stand on with Penn State's president signing a legal form essentially accepting anything thrown at the school.
Penn State is not directly involved in either lawsuit. If Penn State were to be involved in any either lawsuit the NCAA would be open to assessing more sanctions on top of the existing sanctions.