On October 9th, 2012, former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison for the most heinous child molestation case in sports history. That seemed to be the end of this saga. However this may be the story that will just not end.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has decided the state will sue the NCAA saying the state has been harmed by “harsh penalties” over Sandusky abuse. Corbett adds the NCAA “piled on” and acted unlawfully because it stands to benefit from the sanctions.
Corbett alleges the NCAA broke antitrust laws and harmed Pennsylvania residents in the process. In a news conference Wednesday, Corbett said the NCAA did “not punish Sandusky, nor did they punish the others who have been criminally charged. Rather, they punished the past, the present, the local businesses and the citizens of Pennsylvania.”
The NCAA ruling in August placed the Lions on a four year probation. At the time many questioned that penalty, thinking the University should have suffered the “death penalty” and not be allowed to play football for at least 5 years. Also included in the ruling was a $60 million fine and vacating all wins dating back to the 2002 season. All this after the Penn State Board of Trustees came to an agreement in accepting this penalty with the NCAA in exchange for the Governing Body not eliminating the football program.
This lawsuit is curious, especially being filed by the Governor considering his ties to this case. Corbett is a member of the Penn State Board of Trustees. The same board that came to the arrangement with the NCAA.
Corbett also, as the state’s attorney general in 2009, began an investigation into allegations that Sandusky had abused young boys. Yet at the time Corbett found no reason to file charges against the now-convicted former coach. Corbett faced criticism from some because of concerns about alienating Penn State alumni as he ran for governor. Corbett is running for reelection next year.
The Pennsylvania Governor thinks the NCAA over-stepped their authority. One could say Corbett didn’t go far enough in his investigation of the facts. While the penalties were being assessed, Corbett, as a member of the board and the State’s Governor, sat silently. He didn’t think the NCAA was abusing their power then? If not, what changed his mind?
Make no mistake, Penn State is still honoring their agreement with the NCAA. On Wednesday the University did their best to distance themselves from this lawsuit. The team finished 8-4 but was not eligible to play in a bowl game. This morning head coach Bill O’Brien also announced he had told University officials he would return next season instead of chasing an NFL coaching gig.
According to an interview on ESPN with attorney Steve Berman, who has sued the NCAA before, Corbett will have a disadvantage in arguing this suit. “Outsiders are going to have a tough time claiming they have standing to challenge what is going on.”
Other lawyers who handle cases like this say the potential weakness in this case is Corbett is bringing suit on behalf of aggrieved businesses and residents. This theory, legally, is applied in cases which consumers are hurt financially. In this case it will be hard to prove the residents and business of Pennsylvania are hurt since the team is still playing and they can watch games in person or on television.
What Corbett is trying to accomplish here is simple. Take the spotlight away from his inadequate investigation of Sandusky in 2009. Had Corbett followed through on what happened, Penn State may not be in this position. Corbett has an election coming up next year and is running far behind in the polls, placing a lawsuit against an already unpopular agency like the NCAA in the name of the people is like Bain taking over Gotham City. Looks can be deceiving.
Dave Mitchell co-hosts with Mark Donahue the UST talk show “Ohio Baseball Weekly,” highlighting the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds. The Show return in March, 2013.