Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett announced today that he is suing the National Collegiate Athletic Association in federal court, saying that the sanctions it imposed on the Penn State football program overstepped the association’s authority and would cause irreparable economic damage to the university as a whole, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and its citizens.
This morning at the Nittany Lion Inn in State College, Corbett explained to the public that an antitrust lawsuit would be filed later today, asking the court to, “throw out all of the NCAA sanctions against Penn State.”
State College Defense Attorney Matt McClenahen explained why Corbett is pursuing the suit as an antitrust case.
The Sherman Antitrust Act was created in the late 1800s to break up monopolies, like Standard Oil. The act prevents companies from being able to squeeze out all other forms of competition and manipulate prices, McClenahen said.
Monopolies were also formed when cell phones began to gain popularity, he said. The Sherman Antitrust Act made it so that other companies, such as Sprint and AT&T, had a chance to compete.
But even with the Sherman Antitrust Act in place, “the NCAA essentially has a monopoly on college athletics,” he said.
Corbett told reporters at his press conference that the lawsuit would not be conducted by Attorney General Linda Kelly, but rather by an outside resource.
While at first he was slightly taken aback, McClenahen said he began to realize the reasoning behind the Commonwealth’s decision
“It might be good, because the Attorney General’s office probably doesn’t have [many] antitrust experts,” McClenahen said. “They probably would be better off going with a corporate firm dealing with business law.”
Corbett’s statement today was viewed by many as a direct contradiction to what he has said before concerning the NCAA penalties.
When the sanctions were first imposed in July, Corbett took a much different stance, stating that the public simply must, “accept the serious penalties imposed [by] the NCAA on Penn State University and its football program.”
After Corbett’s conference, State Rep. Brandon Neuman, D-Washington, questioned why the governor waited until now to file the suit.
“For more than five months the governor supported the NCAA sanctions,” Neuman said in a press release. “As attorney general he waited years to take Jerry Sandusky off the streets and now as governor and a Penn State trustee he’s wasted months before standing up for this world-class university.”
Corbett addressed these concerns in an interview with Don Lemon of CNN.
“I originally supported the sanctions because I thought to myself, ‘If you belong to an association, you have to play by the rules of the association,’” Corbett said.
However, the closer the commonwealth looked at the case, it realized that the NCAA did not have the authority through the process that they went through, he said.
“I think that the NCAA who set the rules, have to play by their own rules,” Corbett said.
McClenahen said he understood the governor’s decision to wait and do the proper and full investigation process before filing the suit.
“The state does not just go ahead and file charges unless it’s a case they pretty much know is in the bag,” McClenahen said. “They’re not going to be embarrassed and file something that has a chance of being dismissed.”
Because of his confidence in the state’s research, McClenahen said that the NCAA should be careful how it proceeds in reaction to this potentially “airtight case.”
The best interests of the NCAA, he said, would be to strongly reconsider negotiating the sanctions, or removing them entirely.
“Are they going to try and fight a battle they’re probably not going to win?” McClenahen asked. “I don’t think the NCAA is going to want to litigate this if there’s a good chance they’re going to lose. And they probably will lose.”