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Pennsylvania suing NCAA over Penn State sanctions. Does it have a case?

Gov. Corbett says the NCAA sanctions against Penn State in the Sandusky case irreparably harm Pennsylvania. One hurdle for the lawsuit: The university did not challenge the punishment.

By Staff writer / January 2, 2013

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett gestures while speaking at a news conference Wednesday, Jan. 2, in State College, Pa. The NCAA overstepped its authority by imposing hefty sanctions on Penn State University in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal, Corbett said in announcing a federal lawsuit against the college athletics governing body.

Ralph Wilson/AP



The state of Pennsylvania announced Wednesday it is taking the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to federal court, saying it acted illegally in sanctions imposed against Penn State University following a child abuse scandal that devastated the school’s prestigious football program.

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Gov. Tom Corbett (R) said he wants the US District Court in Harrisburg, Pa., to throw out all sanctions the NCAA imposed against Penn State, accusing the organization of trying to illegally benefit from a $60 million fine it imposed against the university in July.

“These punishments threaten to have a devastating, long-lasting and irreparable effect on the state,” Governor Corbett said in a statement released Wednesday. “The only logical conclusion is that the NCAA did it because they benefited from the penalties and because the leadership of the NCAA believed they could. And that’s wrong.”

In June, a jury convicted former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky of 45 counts related to the sexual molestation of 10 minors, all male, over a 15-year period. The scandal stretched far beyond Mr. Sandusky and forced both the resignations of several top university officials and the early retirement of Joe Paterno, the university’s beloved football coach, who has since passed away.

According to an independent investigative report conducted by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, Mr. Paterno was involved in concealing Sandusky’s abusive behavior from authorities. The university’s board of trustees hired Mr. Freeh to investigate the university’s handling of the Sandusky accusations.

The NCAA based its sanctions on the Freeh report. Besides the $60 million fine, the NCAA also imposed a four-year ban on bowl games and any post-season play, a reduction in the number of football scholarships from 25 to 15, and the forfeiture of all wins between 1998-2011.

In imposing the sanctions, the NCAA took the unusual step in bypassing its usual policy for investigating possible violations, which can take a year or more. When announcing the sanctions in July, NCAA President Mark Emmert said the Freeh report was “vastly more involved and thorough than any investigation” his organization had ever conducted.


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