Responding to a federal judge’s decision to dismiss an antitrust lawsuit filed against the
NCAA stemming from sanctions against Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal, Gov. Tom Corbett late last week issued a statement saying his legal team would be analyzing the judicial ruling and reviewing the commonwealth’s legal options moving forward.
“I am disappointed with the court’s decision and believe that the sanctions harmed the citizens, students, athletes, alumni and taxpayers of Pennsylvania,” Corbett, who was the lead plaintiff in the suit, said in his statement, issued the day after U.S. District Judge Yvette Kane dismissed the litigation. “Countless individuals and small businesses throughout the state will continue to suffer because of the NCAA’s actions.”
Corbett went on to say that he continues to believe his complaint had merit, and that the claims in the suit raised “compelling issues” that deserve a “complete and thorough review by the court.”
The administration could appeal Kane’s decision to the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which is based in Philadelphia, but legal experts have been quoted in local media saying that would likely be an uphill battle.
Meanwhile, family members of the late Joe Paterno, the longtime, iconic head football coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions whose downfall came amid the Sandusky sex scandal, have filed their own lawsuit over the NCAA’s sanctions.
That complaint, filed in late May at the Centre County Court of Common Pleas, also challenges the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s punishments against Penn State over the university’s handling of the Sandusky case, although unlike Corbett’s since-dismissed case, it doesn’t contain allegations of antitrust law violations.
Instead, the suit, which also names as defendants NCAA President Mark Emmert and NCAA Executive Committee Chair Edward Ray, accuses the association of “improper interference in and gross mishandling of a criminal matter that falls far outside the scope of their authority.”
The suit says it seeks to remedy the harms caused by the defendants’ “unprecedented imposition of sanctions on Pennsylvania State University for conduct that did not violate the NCAA’s rules and was unrelated to any athletics issue the NCAA could permissibly regulate.”
The association levied a hefty $60 million fine, took away past football wins, and placed future scholarship limits on the university due to its handling of the sexual abuse scandal.
Sandusky, the former defensive coordinator for the college football team, was convicted on 45 counts of child sex-abuse last summer and subsequently ordered to spend between three and six decades behind bars.
Those named in the Paterno suit include family members of the late coach, members of the university’s Board of Trustees, university faculty members, and former Penn State football coaches.
The Paterno complaint alleges that the defendants breached their contractual obligations, and “violated their duties of good faith and fair dealing, intentionally and tortuously interfered with Plaintiffs’ contractual relations, and defamed and commercially disparaged Plaintiffs.”
The Paterno suit contains counts of breach of contract, intentional interference with contractual relations, injurious falsehood/commercial disparagement, defamation and civil conspiracy.
The plaintiffs seek declaratory judgment, in addition to unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, costs, and the issuance of a permanent injunction preventing the NCAA from further enforcing the sanctions against Penn State, which were actually previously agreed to by the university in a consent decree.
Counsel for the plaintiffs in the Paterno suit include lawyers with Harrisburg-based Goldman Katzman, P.C., attorneys from the Washington, D.C. firm King & Spalding LLP, and Boston litigators Paul V. Kelly and John J. Commisso, of Jackson Lewis LLP.
Meanwhile, a group called Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, which says it has 15,000 members worldwide, and was formed to effect positive change within the university’s board of trustees, released a statement saying the group stands behind the Paterno complaint.
“There has been much criticism of the NCAA for the baseless and overreaching sanctions they levied on Penn State nearly a year ago,” read a May 30 statement from the organization. “Speaking for Penn State alumni and supporters, who have been saddened and beyond frustrated by not only the unfairness, but by the role our own Trustees’ played in acquiescing to the outrageous demands, Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship (PS4RS) is in complete support of the lawsuit filed today.”