Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett announced today that the state of Pennsylvania will file suit later today to have all of the NCAA sanctions levied against Penn State lifted.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association imposed "unprecedented" penalties on July 23, including a four-year postseason ban and a $60 million fine. The sanctions were a direct result of Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case.
Corbett called the sanctions "overreaching" and "unlawful," and said the NCAA didn't follow its own rules to impose the sanctions.
He said the economic impact of the sanctions drove him to file the antitrust lawsuit. Several Centre County business leaders were in attendance to back up the Commonwealth's claim. A full explanation of the impacts is included in the criminal complaint, Corbett said.
"These sanctions are an attack on the past, present and future students of Penn State, the citizens of our commonwealth and our economy," Corbett said. "As governor of this commonwealth, I cannot and will not stand by and let it happen without a fight."
According to Corbett, the suit contends that the NCAA violated antitrust laws in imposing the sanctions. Pa. General Counsel James Schultz said the NCAA went around its bylaws to sanction Penn State, saying the decision was made by a small group of NCAA leaders instead of through its typical infraction process.
Corbett emphatically pronounced that Penn State should not have been sanctioned by the NCAA. He said that the sanctions were merely "piling on" during the community's healing process.
The NCAA responded shortly after Corbett's press conference with a statement of its own issued by Donald M. Remy, NCAA executive vice president and general counsel, criticizing the governor's actions.
"Not only does this forthcoming lawsuit appear to be without merit, it is an affront to all of the victims in this tragedy - lives that were destroyed by the criminal actions of Jerry Sandusky," he said in the statement. "While the innocence that was stolen can never be restored, Penn State has accepted the consequences for its role and the role of its employees and is moving forward."
Remy also called the lawsuit a "setback to the University's efforts.”
Corbett dismissed concerns that filing this suit took more than five months, saying he didn't want to "make the same mistake the NCAA did by carelessly rushing in."
Schultz said that the suit has been in the works since the NCAA sanctions were announced in July.
Corbett also said he didn't want to file suit in the middle of football season to prevent taking away any momentum from head coach Bill O'Brien and the team.
Corbett said Penn State President Rodney Erickson and Acting Athletic Director Dave Joyner were alerted to the filing over the weekend. Penn State is not involved directly in the lawsuit, although a contingent of around 40 supporters, student leaders and others attended Wednesday's press conference.
"Quite frankly, they don't have a role in this," Schultz said of the Board of Trustees.
The Attorney General's Office is not involved in the suit, though outgoing Attorney General Linda Kelly was involved in early discussions, Corbett said. Schultz said incoming Attorney General Kathleen Kane will be briefed on the lawsuit at some point today.
Corbett said if the lawsuit is successful, he would advise the Board of Trustees to continue using the sanctions' $60 million fine to support child sex abuse survivors in Pennsylvania.
He said the sanctions were a chance for the NCAA to take advantage of Penn State's "tarnished" public image.
"The NCAA and its president, Mark Emmert, seized upon the opportunity for publicity for their own benefit to make a showing of agressive disciple on the backs of the citizens of our commonwealth and Penn State University, and that is why I have chosen to fight this in the courts," Corbett said.
Former defensive coordinator Sandusky was found guilty on 45 counts of child sex abuse. He is currently serving a 30-to-60 year prison sentence.