There’s no shortage of opinions about the controversial lawsuit filed by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett on Jan. 2 against the NCAA. Some entirely support the governor with the hope of having the sanctions against Penn State tossed. Others worry about the potential effects the legal move could have.
Corbett — in his lawsuit filed on behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania — asked a federal court to overturn all of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s sanctions that were placed on Penn State in July. The sanctions include a $60 million fine, 112 wins vacated from the football team, a loss of 40 scholarships and four years of post-season ineligibility.
The governor voiced concerns that the sanctions would cause irreparable and devastating long-term economic damage to the university, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and its citizens.
Penn State football was the most valuable contributor to intercollegiate revenue for all NCAA student-athletes at the university, according to the antitrust lawsuit documents. In the 2011 fiscal year, the football program provided 37 percent of the revenue for athletic programs, according to court documents.
The football program was found to create about 2,200 jobs for Pennsylvanians, ranging from box office staff and parking attendants, to shopkeepers and restaurant staff, according to court documents.
State College Defense Attorney Matt McClenahen said the reason Corbett is using antitrust law in his suit is because “the NCAA essentially has a monopoly on college athletics.”
The best interests of the NCAA, McClenahen said, would be to strongly reconsider negotiating the sanctions, or removing them entirely.
“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,” McClenahen said.
Former Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society and professor at Penn State Malcolm Moran said he thinks the lawsuit could take a different turn.
In his coverage of NCAA-related issues in the past, Moran said he saw one very consistent theme when a challenge had been posed against the NCAA.
“The answer that frequently comes back is that the NCAA is a voluntary association,” Moran said. “Being a part of [the NCAA] you agree to abide by the rules of the organization.”
However, even taking the past into account, Moran said that the “unprecedented nature” of the sanctions against Penn State could influence the case.
“The NCAA clearly went outside its normal procedures in reaching the sanctions,” Moran said.
Moran said he worries about the effect the lawsuit could have for the future of the university if the Commonwealth does not win. If the current lawsuit does not pan out in the state’s favor, it could jeopardize the university filing its own appeal, Moran said.
“[There are] three trials coming that could shed a lot of light on what did or did not happen,” Moran said. “I’m baffled.”