Gov. Tom Corbett Brings Antitrust Suit Against NCAA

January 2, 2013 at 3:53 pm 6 comments

8337931675_af1c2174e7_mSaying 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.

* The Paterno family released a statement earlier Wednesday, as did Penn Staters For Responsible Stewardship.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Al Haberbusch Aersp Eng '64  |  January 2, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    Regardless of the Governor’s motivation, it’s about time someone with “standing” in the matter takes on the gross over reaching by the NCAA. The rest of those with “standing” including Mss Peetz of the BoT didn’t have the courage to stand up to the NCAA in the first place. Maybe this will help deliver the same message that’s been being delivered to her directly and in reaction to an interview she did with The Penn Stater magazine — which is the alumni are totally and completely dissatisfied with the way in which the Freeh Report and the NCAA sanctions are being handled by the Board of Trustees..All parties would profit if she resigned.

  • 2. Suzanne  |  January 3, 2013 at 7:51 am

    Unbelievable — this has made me cry AGAIN. Slap that smirk off Mark Emmert’s face, ANYONE. Expose the NCAA for the monopoly they are. Restore Joe’s GOOD name and bring peace to his memory.

  • 3. Richard  |  January 3, 2013 at 11:26 am

    Thank you, Gov. Corbett. It is about time.

  • 4. Susan Gifford, '80 MBA  |  January 3, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    Folks, please don’t thank the governor for performing an action solely to help his political fortunes. With that said, I applaud the suit. The NCAA is shameless, Emmert is beyond description in polite conversation. And, for anyone who cares to search a bit, I believe Emmert’s whole attitude toward Penn State was formulated based on conversations with a dismissed executive, Vicky Triponey, with whom he worked at UConn years ago. Too bad Corbett’s suit couldn’t include that tidbit.

  • 5. JoePaFan  |  January 5, 2013 at 4:00 am

    The Board of Cowards should be ashamed of themselves. They have done more damage to Penn State and the surrounding community than Jerry Sandusky did with his horrific crimes. These Cowards need to go and take Erickson and Joyner with them! There is not much doubt that Corbutt is pulling this political maneuver for his own self-serving, narcissistic reasons. Isn’t it a shame that to date, the only person affiliated with Penn State to stand up and fight is this lousy excuse for a Governor? I think most of us fully support the lawsuit; we just wish those who are tasked with protecting the University would have had the guts to do their jobs. Instead, they all appear to be far more concerned with protecting their own images. I guess they haven’t looked around lately. Their images are already badly tarnished. In fact the rust is starting to eat away at their images. What will be exposed in the end is surely going to be very, very ugly. (Remember, Freeh was hired to represent the interests of the Board of Cowards, not Penn State University.)

  • 6. Bill S, '72 Science  |  January 6, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    The Board of Trustees and President Erickson need to grow a back bone and fight these ridiculous sanctions. Someone please tell me who these sanctions are meant to punish, Joe Paterno or the players who had nothing to do with the crimes?

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