Corbett filing defends antitrust suit vs. NCAA over Penn State penalties
HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Corbett argued in a court document filed late Monday that the NCAA has been trying to use his pending antitrust lawsuit against it over the Penn State penalties in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal to combat what he describes as a groundswell of public criticism.
Corbett said the judge should not grant the NCAA's request to dismiss the case, saying college sports' governing body made a factual error when it said the penalties were voted on by the university's trustees.
Corbett, who as governor is a trustee, said the NCAA's motion to dismiss the lawsuit he filed in January “appears to have been written more to advance the NCAA's broader agenda, and to combat the recent groundswell of public criticism against the embattled organization, than to raise legal issues appropriate to a motion to dismiss.”
The NCAA, in a court filing three weeks ago, said antitrust law did not apply and a consent agreement between it and Penn State was “exceptionally unlikely” to cause other schools to raise tuition, cut scholarships or charge more for branded jerseys. It said Corbett lacked standing to sue and called his action an attempt to drag the federal courts into an intra-state political dispute.
NCAA spokeswoman Emily Potter said Monday the NCAA stood by its previous statements.
The Republican governor's lawsuit asks the judge to throw out all the penalties, including a massive fine, a four-year bowl ban and the loss of football scholarships.
“It is laughable to claim that a $60 million fine, coupled with the gutting of one of the most lucrative programs at one of the nation's largest universities, is 'noncommercial activity,'” Corbett argued.
He claims that the consent agreement has harmed students, business owners and others and that the NCAA penalties are likely to result in higher tuition and make it more difficult for football players to find scholarships.
“The NCAA wrongly claims that its arbitrary decimation of the PSU football program is no different than its enforcement of rules regulating player eligibility or uniforms — which do enhance collegiate competition — although PSU was not found to have violated a single NCAA rule and the NCAA's own president insisted that the consent decree was not an enforcement action,” Corbett's lawyers wrote.
Corbett said the Penn State case is the first time the NCAA has injected itself into criminal conduct already in the justice system, “let alone into offenses that did not involve cheating, academic fraud, recruiting violations or other conduct designed to give athletic programs an unfair competitive advantage.”
He also took a swipe at the NCAA regarding recent revelations in a booster scandal at the University of Miami.
“It is ironic that the NCAA attempts to maintain a pious tone throughout its brief ... in light of its recent revelations about its own misconduct while investigating the University of Miami,” the Corbett filing said.
Sandusky, a former defensive coordinator at Penn State, a college football powerhouse, was convicted last summer of sexually abusing several boys, some on campus. He is serving a 30- to 60-year state prison sentence. He is appealing and maintains his innocence.
The consent agreement between the NCAA and Penn State was signed a few weeks after Sandusky was found guilty of 45 criminal counts. Penn State is not a party to Corbett's antitrust lawsuit or to the NCAA's lawsuit filed last week against Corbett and three state officials over a newly enacted state law that is designed to keep the $60 million within the state.