By Peter Hall
Gov. Tom Corbett will not appeal the dismissal of his lawsuit challenging the NCAA ’s sanctions against Penn State over its mishandling of child sexual abuse allegations against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
Corbett’s general counsel said in a statement that after extensive review of U.S. District Judge Yvette Kane’s decision, the administration had decided not to further pursue claims the $60 million fine, reduction in football scholarships and ban from bowl games violated federal antitrust laws.
General Counsel James Schultz added that the ruling highlighted issues that might be beneficial in other ongoing cases challenging the sanctions.
“We will continue to review legal options available to defend state law, including the requirement that all fine money paid by Penn State be used to support Pennsylvania programs aimed at preventing child sexual abuse,“ Schultz said.
Kane ruled June 6 that Corbett failed to show how the sanctions would harm Pennsylvanians outside the Penn State community and granted the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s motion to dismiss the suit.
“Each of `the NCAA’s~ arguments is strong enough to render the governor’s action under antitrust law a Hail Mary pass,“ Kane wrote.
Lawyers for Corbett argued that Penn State’s reduced standing among major football universities rendered the entire marketplace for college football, higher education and sports apparel less competitive.
A lawyer for the NCAA called Corbett’s claims speculative and absurd.
Noting the suit raised serious questions about a private organization’s power over the iconic state university and its cascading economic impact on innocent people, Kane nonetheless said the challenge was improper.
“These are important questions deserving of public debate, but they are not antitrust questions,“ she said. “In another forum, the complaint’s appeal to equity and common sense may win the day, but in the antitrust world, these arguments fail to advance the ball.“
Corbett’s suit was one of three challenging the NCAA’s authority to punish Penn State.
State Sen. Jake Corman and Treasurer Rob McCord are suing in state court to enforce a law Corman successfully sponsored requiring all fines against publicly funded universities to be paid to the state treasury. The Commonwealth Court is considering the NCAA’s objections to the suit.
Former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno ’s family, former football players and members of the university board of trustees are also challenging the sanctions in Centre County Court. They argue the NCAA ignored its own rules by adopting the findings of an investigation by former FBI director Louis Freeh as the basis for the punishment.
Sandusky, 69, was convicted last year of molesting 10 young boys, in some cases on Penn State’s University Park campus, and is serving a 30 to 60 year state prison sentence.