State Supreme Court rejects NCAA's motion to dismiss Penn State sanctions trial

By Jim Boyle | Nov 7, 2014

The planned January 2015 Commonwealth Court trial to determine the legality of the

NCAA's consent decree sanctions against Penn State will go on as scheduled following this week's rejection by the state Supreme Court to dismiss the case.

The NCAA filed the appeal after Commonwealth Court Judge Anne Covey denied a similar motion in early October, prompting the collegiate sports governing body to take its case to the higher court. The Supreme Court found that Covey did not exceed her jurisdiction with the decision.

"I write separately to note that, upon preliminary review of the matter, it appears that petitioner has presented ... a colorable argument that the Commonwealth Court ... inserted an undisputed issue into an otherwise moot case," wrote Justice Max Baer in a coinciding note to the ruling.

The Commonwealth Court suit was filed by State Sen. Jake Corman and State Treasurer Rob McCord against the NCAA to enforce the Endowment Act, a law passed in 2013 that would force the funds from the $60 million fine issued by the NCAA to remain in-state. The collegiate sports governing body intended to use the money nationwide.

The parties came to a settlement, with the NCAA agreeing to keep the $60 million in Pennsylvania and drop its suit in federal court and Corman and McCord filing to dismiss the Commonwealth Court suit.

Covey disrupted the agreement when she declared that she wanted a trial to determine the validity of the entire consent decree issued by the NCAA and accepted by Penn State as punishment for its alleged lack of investigation into child abuse claims against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

Along with the $60 million fine, the school also had a four-year ban on post-season play, a four-year reduction of grants-in-aid, four years of probation, and the vacation of sports wins dating back to 1998. In September, the NCAA agreed to relax most of the sanctions, allowing Penn State to participate in postseason bowl games this year and begin awarding scholarships for the 2015-2016 season.

In her 2013 ruling in favor of the Endowment Act, Covey said that many innocent parties who had nothing to do with the molestation scandal would be affected by the punishments. Her desire to get the full factual background of the consent decree did not disappear once the parties’ came to an agreement.

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