Jim Boyle Jan. 16, 2015, 1:05pm


HARRISBURG - The constitutionality of a state law aimed to keep the proceeds of a $60 million fine levied by NCAA against Penn State has been decided several times by the Commonwealth Court and should not be a question at the federal level, according to a recent ruling.

On Tuesday, Judge Yvette Kane, of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania dismissed the NCAA's lawsuit that claimed that the Endowment Act, passed in 2013 by the General Assembly, was unconstitutional.

The organization, which oversees collegiate athletics, is currently embroiled in a Commonwealth Court case with state Treasurer Rob McCord and Sen. Jake Corman, who filed the suit after the bill's passage to force the NCAA to adhere to the new law.

"A judgment on the constitutional claims from this Court, at this juncture, would unnecessarily interfere with state court proceedings and result in needless duplication," Kane wrote in a memorandum accompanying the ruling. "The court will not revisit the constitutional claims at issue here."

The Endowment Act applies to public colleges and universities that enter into punitive
agreements with governing bodies to pay large monetary penalties in installments. When the school agrees to a fine of more than $10 million to be paid “over a time period in excess of one year,” and when the language of the agreement identifies “specific purposes” for which the fine money will be used, the law requires that the fine be deposited into a state-administered endowment.

According to the original federal complaint, the NCAA considered the new law unconstitutional and illegal because it interfered with a contractual relationship between the organization and Penn State.

In the time since the initial case filings, the sanctions imposed by the NCAA against the school as punishment for its alleged lack of action to prevent the sexual abuse of minor boys by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky have been chipped away.

Penn State has been given an early reprieve to compete again in bowl games and offer football scholarships to recruits. The latest concession was the restoration of the team's full record during the time of legendary coach Joe Paterno's tenure.

"The NCAA continues to believe the Endowment Act is unconstitutional and will have the right to appeal the lower court's decision at the conclusion of the Corman case," a statement from the NCAA reads. "We appreciate the federal court’s careful analysis and regret it did not have a chance to decide this important issue under the United States Constitution.”

The Commonwealth Court trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 17 with Judge Anne Covey presiding.

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