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Lawmaker: Use PSU fines in Pa.

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Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
 

A top state senator, who said he held brief and unproductive negotiations with NCAA officials, wants fellow lawmakers and courts to force the association to keep $60 million in Penn State University fines within state lines.

Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre County, said he tried to get the NCAA to agree to spend the money on child abuse prevention programs in Pennsylvania, but officials declined. The NCAA included the fines in the package of penalties leveled against the university over its handling of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

Corman plans to introduce legislation that would require that the money remain in Pennsylvania and to file a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court to freeze the $12 million that Penn State set aside in a money market account on Dec. 20.

The NCAA wouldn't comment on Corman's actions. Penn State did not respond to requests for comment.

“Penn State is a state university,” said Corman, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a Penn State alumnus. Most of its money comes from within Pennsylvania, and “we believe that's the appropriate place” for the money to remain.

The state-supported school agreed to pay $60 million in a consent decree signed on July 23 by Penn State President Rodney Erickson and NCAA President Mark Emmert. The NCAA said Penn State's treatment of its football program allowed Sandusky, a former assistant coach, to prey on children. A jury in June convicted Sandusky, 68, of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years.

Though the agreement requires spending the money on child abuse prevention programs, it “is silent on where it should be spent,” Corman said.

“We are putting a policy in place that says it should be spent in Pennsylvania,” Corman said.

According to the NCAA's plans, a 10-member panel called the Child Sexual Abuse Endowment Task Force will create an endowment with the money, adopt guidelines for the fund and, by spring, select an administrator to disburse the money.

The panel includes one Penn State dean and one vice dean, the president of the University of South Carolina, and top officials of national nonprofits and the federal Department of Health and Human Services. Corman said he sent two letters this month to Emmert, trying to secure a commitment that the money would remain in Pennsylvania.

The first letter resulted in a brief phone call with NCAA officials, during which they declined to commit to spending more than 25 percent of the money here, Corman said.

“It was a short call,” he said. It became clear early in the conversation that they were at an impasse and it didn't make “a lot of sense to keep talking,” he added.

Corman received no response to the second letter, he said.

Task force Chairman Timothy White, chancellor of the University of California, Riverside, couldn't be reached.

Corman said he knew of no precedent for a state telling the NCAA how to spend its fines, but noted that the consent decree itself calls the circumstances “unprecedented.”

Mike Wereschagin is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7900 or mwereschagin@tribweb.com.

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