From the day NCAA president Mark Emmert stood up and hammered Penn State's football program with unprecedented sanctions last summer, the line was drawn in the sand: You were either with the NCAA or you were with Penn State.
It was never that simple. Certainly the acts committed by Jerry Sandusky needed to be dealt with criminally. They were. Certainly those within the university who enabled the long-time assistant football coach to continue his ways on campus for possibly a decade or more needed to be dealt with criminally. That process continues.
There has always been more to this story and this week the sidebar was thrust back into the spotlight when Governor Tom Corbett and the state of Pennsylvania brought an antitrust suit against the NCAA for its sanctions on both the football program and the university.
Since the sanctions were first announced in July — quickly following on the heels of Penn State's release of the Freeh Report — there has been public debate about whether the NCAA overstepped its bounds in punishing Penn State with fines, loss of scholarships and a bowl ban, in addition to stripping coach Joe Paterno of more than 100 victories. The university, which is not part of Corbett's lawsuit, quickly signed a consent decree to agree to the punishment, which angered many alums and fans.
The program did not violate any NCAA bylaw in terms of illegal recruiting or use of ineligible players. The NCAA took the university's report as fact, handed out unprecedented punishments that Corbett said Wednesday were an "overreach and unlawful" and done to weaken both the university and the football program.
Emmert has often said the NCAA's mission is to be an "integral part of higher education and to focus on the development of our student-athletes." That is all well and good, and exactly what the NCAA should do, make sure students are actually athletes and graduate, to make the playing field fair for everyone.
A federal judge will now decide whether the NCAA violated anti-trust law when the association opened the Pandora's Box by handing out punishment for crimes outside its normal jurisdiction.
There is little doubt the suit will be popular within Pennsylvania, where many residents live and die Saturdays in Happy Valley. Whether the governor, up for reelection next year, is taking part in a considerable amount of political grandstanding to grab votes, is up for debate.