Pennsylvania to Sue NCAA over Penn State Sanctions

This is an inter­est­ing court case for a num­ber of rea­sons.  For starters, obvi­ously, it’s going to be head­line grab­bing.  What Jerry San­dusky did was inhu­man, and depend­ing on how this gets explained, the state’s attempt to sue the NCAA could be a pub­lic rela­tions night­mare if not han­dled right.

Sec­ondly, the state may have a point — espe­cially if it points out that what it wants is the $60 mil­lion Penn State agreed to pay in sanc­tions to stay in-state, not get flushed out nation­ally.  Sandusky’s vic­tims were mostly kids in Penn­syl­va­nia, so why not let Penn State’s money heal and pre­vent future abuse in the Key­stone State?

Gov. Tom Cor­bett said Tues­day he plans to sue the NCAA in fed­eral court over stiff sanc­tions imposed against Penn State Uni­ver­sity in the wake of the Jerry San­dusky child sex­ual abuse scandal.

The Repub­li­can gov­er­nor sched­uled a Wednes­day news con­fer­ence on the Penn State cam­pus in State Col­lege to announce the antitrust fil­ing in U.S. Dis­trict Court in Harrisburg.

The sanc­tions, which were agreed to by the uni­ver­sity in July, included a $60 mil­lion fine that would be used nation­ally to finance child abuse pre­ven­tion grants. The sanc­tions also included a four-year bowl game ban for the university’s mar­quee foot­ball pro­gram, reduced foot­ball schol­ar­ships and the for­fei­ture of 112 wins but didn’t include a sus­pen­sion of the foot­ball pro­gram, the so-called death penalty.

The governor’s office announced the news con­fer­ence late Tues­day after­noon. His spokesman did not respond to repeated calls and emails seek­ing to con­firm a Sports Illus­trated story that cited anony­mous sources say­ing a law­suit was imminent.

Corbett’s brief state­ment did not indi­cate whether his office coor­di­nated its legal strat­egy with state Attor­ney General-elect Kath­leen Kane, who is sched­uled to be sworn in Jan. 15.

Kane, a Demo­c­rat, ran on a vow to inves­ti­gate why it took state pros­e­cu­tors nearly three years to charge San­dusky, an assis­tant under for­mer foot­ball coach Joe Paterno. Cor­bett was the attor­ney gen­eral when that office took over the case in early 2009 and until he became gov­er­nor in Jan­u­ary 2011.

State and con­gres­sional law­mak­ers from Penn­syl­va­nia have objected to using the Penn State fine to finance activ­i­ties in other states. Penn State has already made the first $12 mil­lion pay­ment, and an NCAA task force is decid­ing how it should be spent.

The NCAA, which did not respond to calls seek­ing com­ment Tues­day, has said at least a quar­ter of the money would be spent in Pennsylvania.

Repub­li­can U.S. Rep. Char­lie Dent called that an “unac­cept­able and unsat­is­fac­tory” response by the NCAA to a request from the state’s U.S. House del­e­ga­tion that the whole $60 mil­lion be dis­trib­uted to causes within the state.

Last week, state Sen. Jake Cor­man, a Repub­li­can whose dis­trict includes Penn State’s main cam­pus, said he plans to seek court action bar­ring any of the first $12 mil­lion from being released to groups out­side the state.

Another fac­tor in this is pretty sim­ple:  While there is prob­a­bly a legal doc­u­ment out there regard­ing the sanc­tions between the NCAA and the school, the ques­tion at large is this:  Who the hell gave the NCAA the right to act as judge, jury, and exe­cu­tioner in the first place?

The NCAA is a body meant to over­see sports, games, and con­fer­ences; and they do it all from a cor­po­rate tower in down­town Indi­anapo­lis.  They aren’t the ones who decide when laws are bro­ken and so on.  They aren’t a court, they aren’t a reg­u­la­tory body.

All they are is a part­ner­ship meant to allow schools to com­pete against each other.

Don’t get me wrong, I want Penn State pun­ished.  They will­ingly let a child preda­tor run ram­pant on their cam­pus for decades all in the name of pro­tect­ing a coach, his foot­ball pro­gram, and their school.

But there is a point in say­ing, “Hey, those who were wronged were in this state.  How ’bout keep­ing the money here?”  On that action, I com­pletely agree with what appears to be plan going for­ward.  Any­thing else, would be and should be seen as try­ing to get out their respon­si­bil­ity here.

That would be unacceptable.

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