Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett announced in an 11 a.m. press conference Wednesday morning that the state of Pennsylvania is filing an anti-trust lawsuit against the NCAA for the unprecedented penalties levied against Penn State University on July 23, 2012. The penalties included a 4-year bowl ban, a 10 scholarship per-year reduction for the football program over the next four years, 111 vacated wins for Joe Paterno, and a $60 million dollar fine.
“These sanctions are an attack on the past, present and future students of Penn State, the citizens of our commonwealth and our economy. As governor of this commonwealth, I cannot and will not stand by and let it happen without a fight,” Corbett said in his press conference this morning.
Penn State University itself, the entity at the center of the suit, will not be involved in the lawsuit at all. Corbett neither asked the university or any of its officials to be involved, nor have any Penn State officials approached the Governor at this point.
Corbett has been reviewing the issue at length in the months following the levied sanctions, perusing the Freeh Report that was the NCAA’s sole basis for sanctioning the university. Corbett called the Freeh Report “incomplete” and seeks to overturn the sanctions that he described as an “attack” on the university.
The NCAA is an organization whose sole authority and jurisdiction is to regulate competitive balance in collegiate athletics. The rules imposed by the NCAA include restrictions on issues such as extra benefits for players, recruiting regulations, actions to unfairly improve competitive advantage, and more. Penn State did not commit any specific NCAA rules violations in the Jerry Sandusky case, regardless of how egregious the criminal actions were themselves. As a result, while the legal system is handling the cases of Jerry Sandusky, Graham Spanier, Tim Curley, and Gary Schultz, Gov. Corbett is aggressively pursuing the angle that the NCAA had no legal right or jurisdiction to become involved and assess any penalties to the university and/or the football program.
Originally rumored to simply be a suit challenging the $60 million fine for the impact it will have on the state’s economy, Corbett made it clear this morning that the state will seek to challenge and overturn all the NCAA penalties, without any involvement from the university itself.
As the NCAA’s official statement today maintained, “Today’s announcement by the Governor is a setback to the University’s efforts.” This statement was made even in light of the knowledge that the university itself is not directly involved with the lawsuit.
The lack of the university’s presence in the suit may be a product of the tenuous relationship that the university has been forced to have with the NCAA. President Rodney Erickson has been placed in a difficult position, as his initial agreement with the sanctions and the resulting changes to the football program and athletic department have reportedly been contingent upon the NCAA’s threat that it would impose the death penalty if Penn State did not comply with the NCAA’s actions. As a result, any involvement by the university or its representatives may muddle the case as presented this morning and could complicate the state’s suit.
We will continue to provide updates on this lawsuit as details continue to emerge over the coming months.