Gov. Tom Corbett Brings Antitrust Suit Against NCAA
Saying he was acting on behalf of Penn State students and alumni and the citizens of Pennsylvania who were being punished by the “unlawful and overreaching” actions of the NCAA, Gov. Tom Corbett on Wednesday announced a federal antitrust lawsuit being brought by the commonwealth against the collegiate athletic governing body for the sanctions handed down last summer in the wake of the Freeh Report.
It was an unusual scene late Wednesday morning at the Nittany Lion Inn, an on-campus location chosen despite the university having no involvement in the suit (you can read Penn State’s official statement on the lawsuit here). The governor took to a podium flanked by a few dozen people, former Nittany Lion football lettermen, local business people, and current student-athletes and student leaders among them. He praised Penn State’s role in educating the state’s citizens and providing a major economic engine, acknowledged the awful nature of the crimes committed by Jerry Sandusky and the ongoing prosecution against former university administrators, then posed the question that sets the foundation for the suit against the NCAA: “Why would they punish the citizens of Pennsylvania who had nothing to do with these crimes?”
You can read the 43-page complaint in its entirety here; essentially, the suit charges the NCAA—a “trade organization,” as Corbett and state general counsel Jim Schultz repeatedly emphasized—with defying its own bylaws and overstepping its bounds in handing down stiff penalties to Penn State last summer, and asserts that those penalties have had a negative economic impact on Penn State, the local community, and citizens of the state. Both the governor and Schultz, who spoke after him, were challenged by reporters on the timing of the suit, which comes as the attorney general’s office (which won’t be involved in the suit, which is being handled by outside counsel on the state’s behalf) is about to change hands. Media members also questioned the political timing of the announcement, mindful that Corbett is up for reelection next year, and that his popularity has taken a hit over perceptions of his handling of the Sandusky investigation.
It’s far too soon to know how all this will shake out, but there are already plenty of informed perspectives circulating online. Among them:
* The sports law expert at Sports Illustrated weighs in on each side’s likely approach to this case.
* A statement from the NCAA calls the lawsuit “without merit” and a “setback for the university’s efforts” in dealing with the scandal’s fallout.
* Many are comparing Corbett’s statement Wednesday with his statement when the sanctions were announced last summer, when he said “part of that corrective process is to accept the serious penalties imposed today by the NCAA.”
* Completely overturning the sanctions seems a less likely outcome to some than a negotiated settlement that would lessen their impact.
Ryan Jones, senior editor