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NCAA says Corbett overreaches in regard to Penn State sanctions

| Tuesday, May 21, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

HARRISBURG — A federal judge said on Monday she will rule in a few weeks whether Gov. Tom Corbett can continue an antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA that seeks to reverse sanctions the organization imposed on Penn State University as a result of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

At issue is whether Corbett has standing to continue the lawsuit to overturn a four-year ban on bowl games, reduced scholarships and a $60 million fine.

Sandusky, 69, a former assistant football coach, is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence on his conviction last year of 45 child molestation charges.

The NCAA levied the sanctions last year shortly after a damning report from former FBI Director Louis Freeh charged that top officials at Penn State for years concealed facts about Sandusky to avoid bad publicity for the football program. The university commissioned Freeh's report.

Penn State's football program had a $90 million business impact on Centre County and $161 million statewide in 2009, Corbett's General Counsel Jim Schultz told Judge Yvette Kane. From hot dog vendors to hotels and T-shirt sales, Pennsylvanians, especially those near the university, were hurt when ticket sales dropped 10 percent last year, Schultz said.

“Penn State football is an enormous power source for Pennsylvania,” Schultz said.

“Gov. Corbett lacks standing to represent Penn State in this matter,” said Scott Ballenger, a Washington lawyer representing the NCAA.

Kane asked both sides tough questions and suggested the case would seem more appropriate as a “breach-of-contract claim or a civil rights action.”

“The governor has to outline restraint of trade and identify who the actors are. You haven't done that,” Kane told Melissa Maxman, an attorney with the Cozen O'Connor law firm assisting Schultz.

Kane said Penn State signed the sanctions agreement with the NCAA. But Maxman said the board of trustees never approved it and officials signed under duress.

President Rodney Erickson signed the document.

“Nothing turns on whether Penn State's agreement was voluntary or nonvoluntary,” Ballenger said.

“It was crammed down their throats under threat of the death penalty,” Maxman said. The death penalty for college teams would ban all play for a year or more.

Kane concluded the nearly two-hour hearing by saying, “We're not in the same stadium on antitrust issues.”

Brad Bumsted is state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com.

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