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NCAA had to act swiftly

| Saturday, June 1, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Nate Beeler | The Columbus Dispatch

HARRISBURG

The NCAA, in my view, is a bully.

I have no sympathy for the organization, which seems to act in a dictatorial manner in regulating college athletics.

If it gets whacked in one of the lawsuits out there protesting Penn State's handling of the Jerry Sandusky matter, so be it.

Legal entanglements over the NCAA's rapid censure of Penn State, following release of the Freeh report last year, may drag on for years in appellate courts. Gov. Tom Corbett, a member of the PSU Board of Trustees whose criminal investigation as attorney general launched the Sandusky case, has a lawsuit pending in federal court seeking repeal of the sanctions, which include a $60 million fine, a four-year ban on bowl games and a reduction in scholarships. The NCAA and Corbett recently battled in court over whether the governor has standing to sue.

Last week, another lawsuit was filed in state court in Centre County by late head coach Joe Paterno's family, five PSU trustees and players from the teams whose wins were vacated by the NCAA sanctions.

Talk about a home-field advantage!

Among other things, the Paterno family's lawsuit alleges breach of contract.

Here's the deal: Sandusky was a longtime assistant football coach. Convicted last year of molesting young boys, he is serving a 30-to-60-year prison term.

After Sandusky was charged in 2011, the university commissioned a report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh. His report claimed, in essence, that four top PSU leaders, including Paterno, covered for Sandusky amidst a football-oriented culture that sought to avoid negative publicity. The report was damning. The NCAA within two weeks hit Penn State with the sanctions.

Since then, the Freeh report has come under attack for not interviewing certain witnesses and supposedly jumping to inaccurate conclusions.

The family of the deceased coach, through the lawsuit, says it is most interested in the truth coming out.

Makes sense.

But here's the rub. The Freeh report was initiated by Penn State. Its findings were based on Penn State records and emails.

Maybe it did not go far enough. Maybe not enough people were interviewed.

But how long should the NCAA have waited, doing its own investigation in an area where it likely would not have had access to records being used in a criminal investigation?

Can you imagine the outcry if the NCAA had dragged its feet on sanctions?

The fact that the Freeh report was university-commissioned may make it less trustworthy. (Employers tend to get what they ask for.)

Still, it seems the NCAA had little choice but to act, and swiftly, based on the Freeh report.

The university had a gun to its head to accept the sanctions or face the NCAA's “death penalty.” That's another matter.

Brad Bumsted is the state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media (717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com).

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