Commonwealth Court weighing mediation request in NCAA suit by state senator and treasurer

By Jon Campisi | Jun 21, 2013

Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court is expected to soon decide whether or not to allow

a lawsuit by a state lawmaker against the NCAA to move forward in the tort system.

State Sen. Jake Corman, a Republican representing the State College, Pa. area, which encompasses Penn State University, and state Treasurer Rob McCord are suing the National Collegiate Athletic Association over the fines levied against Penn State over the university’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal.

Sandusky, a former assistant football coach, is doing time in state prison for molesting a number of youngsters over a 15-year period.

Corman and McCord contend the first $12 million out of the total $60 million in fines against Penn State that arose out of a consent agreement between the school and the NCAA should remain in the commonwealth.

The duo filed suit in late March.

Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania General Assembly enacted a law that requires the fine money be used on programs within Pennsylvania, since Penn State is a public university that receives taxpayer funding.

The new law makes the state treasurer the legal custodian of the penalty money until it is dispersed to child abuse programs throughout the state.

Penn State itself is not a party to the legal action.

The NCAA previously took issue with the law, arguing that the fine money should be able to be put toward child abuse programs outside of Pennsylvania.

Just recently, Corman and McCord filed court papers seeking to have a Commonwealth Court approve of mediation with the hope of resolving the matter in a more timely fashion.

Corman’s office announced that the request came after the plaintiffs received letters from Penn State and the NCAA, with the former urging a settlement, and the latter arguing against mediation.

According to Corman’s office, counsel for the NCAA wrote: “we are sure you understand that Pennsylvania law, in the form of the Endowment Act, now renders that impossible.”

“Corman and McCord sympathize with the concerns raised by the University and agree that it would be reasonable and consistent with the public interest to avoid protracted litigation,” reads a news release from Corman’s office. “The NCAA letter makes clear, however, that without judicial intervention a good faith settlement discussion among the litigants is impossible.”

In his own statement, McCord, the state treasurer, said he and his co-plaintiff disagree with the NCAA, and hope the association will change its position and seek a “workable settlement that helps Pennsylvanians.

“We believe the NCAA needs to focus less on its power and authority and more on quickly helping Pennsylvanians who have been the victim of child abuse,” McCord stated. “We can achieve that goal with a reasonable settlement.”

In his own prepared remarks, Corman said he continues to assert that the Penn State fine money belongs in Pennsylvania in order to benefit “our organizations and our children."

“Any effort to resolve this issue quickly will benefit everyone,” Corman said.

In its June 11 letter, according to Corman’s office, Penn State argued that it should not be involved in the case because it has no legal or financial interest in the litigation, and that whether it turns the fine money over to the NCAA or to the state treasury, it would be in the “uncomfortable position” of either violating the consent decree or state law.

Oral arguments before the Commonwealth Court were scheduled for June 19 in Harrisburg.

It was not immediately clear when the judges would render a decision.

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