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NCAA wins dismissal of lawsuit over Sandusky fine

June 6, 2013
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The National Collegiate Athletic Association on Thursday morning won the dismissal of a lawsuit challenging sanctions against Pennsylvania State University for its role in the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal.

The lawsuit brought by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett failed to show a violation of federal antitrust law, U.S. District Judge Yvette Kane said in her decision throwing out the case. Corbett said the fines restrained competition in the market for college sports. The NCAA countered in a presentation to the judge last month that Corbett’s arguments were insufficient to serve as the basis of an antitrust claim.

“Each of defendant’s arguments is strong enough to render the governor’s action under antitrust law a Hail Mary pass,” Kane said her 28-page opinion. “These arguments are well-founded in the law and require that the governor’s complaint be dismissed.”

Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for Pennsylvania’s Office of the General Counsel, didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment on the ruling. A call to Corbett’s office was referred to General Counsel James Schultz.

Corbett sued the Indianapolis-based NCAA, the governing body for college sports, in January, challenging a $60 million fine levied against the university for its failure to prevent the sexual abuse by Sandusky, a former assistant football coach who was convicted of molesting 10 boys.

The NCAA filed its own suit the following month, accusing Pennsylvania of trying to confiscate the fine under a new law that allows the state to control the use of funds. The law violates the U.S. Constitution and can’t be enforced, the NCAA said in its complaint.

In addition to the fine, the sanctions imposed in July stripped Penn State of 112 football wins from 1998 through 2011 and barred the Nittany Lions from bowl games for four years, matching the longest postseason ban in NCAA history.

Penn State agreed to the penalties and said in January that it was committed to full compliance with the consent decree. The school set aside the first of five payments, of $12 million, toward the NCAA fine in December. The payment was made by the school’s athletics department through an internal loan from the university’s reserves, Penn State said Dec. 20.

Corbett said in January that Penn State President Rodney Erickson was forced to agree to the sanctions under the threat of a death penalty to its football program. The NCAA used Sandusky’s offenses as a pretext to impose unprecedented penalties, the state said in the complaint.

At a hearing in May, lawyers for the state described Penn State’s football program as an “economic powerhouse” generating about $90 million in business in the local community, $5 million in tax revenue and about 2,200 jobs.

The sanctions followed an internal school investigation that faulted legendary football coach Joe Paterno and other school officials for covering up abuse allegations. Paterno, who wasn’t charged with a crime, died of lung cancer in January 2012.

Former Penn State President Graham Spanier and two other school officials face criminal charges tied to a 2001 abuse allegation against Sandusky.

Sandusky was sentenced in October to a minimum of 30 years in prison for the abuse.

In a poll released Thursday by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, 42 percent of Pennsylvania voters said the NCAA sanctions hurt the football program “a great deal.” Corbett, as attorney general, didn’t do enough to investigate the Jerry Sandusky case, 58 percent of voters said.

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