Gov. Tom Corbett filed his lawsuit against the NCAA to overturn the sanctions almost two months ago, and has now filed a response to the NCAA’s motion to dismiss the case. While the option to dismiss the lawsuit now rests in the hands of a judge, some legal experts claim there are several factors to consider in this complicated case.
On Feb. 7, the National Collegiate Athletic Association filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, and Corbett responded this week, saying that the NCAA’s motion was “self-serving” and contained facts that “flatly contradict the well-pleaded allegations of the Complaint.”
The documents argue that the most “egregious” factual contradiction by the NCAA is the fact that the Penn State Board of Trustees voted to “ratify the sanctions,” but Corbett’s memorandum says this was not the case.
State College Defense Attorney Matt McClenahen said this error on the side of the NCAA was significant because Penn State was essentially required to accept the consent decree in July.
“That’s not an agreement any more than a robber holding a gun to an old lady’s head and taking her purse,” he said.
While the NCAA and Corbett now wait for a judge to issue an opinion on whether to dismiss the case, one of the concerns is the nature of this antitrust case, Penn State Professor of Law Stephen F. Ross said.
Ross said that Corbett’s antitrust lawsuit is atypical because usually antitrust claims say that other parties have ganged up on one party for financial gain. However, Corbett is not claiming that the rest of the NCAA member schools ganged up and disadvantaged Penn State for more profit, Ross said.
Instead, Corbett is essentially claiming that the NCAA acted unfairly toward Penn State and disadvantaged them to save their own reputation, Ross said.
“I don’t know how the court is going to rule because the case is an extremely unusual antitrust claim,” Ross said. “It’s hard to exactly figure out what’s relevant to his theory.”
Now that the motion to dismiss is in the judge’s hands, Ross said there are two options. One option would be for the judge to deny the motion and see what happens because it is an unusual antitrust theory. The other option would be for the judge to say that it is really not an antitrust claim, so they will not “waste their time,” he said.
McClenahen said that if the judge rules not to dismiss the case, the evidence would lead the courts to rule in favor of Corbett at this point.
“I think Pennsylvania would take a settlement in a second to reverse the sanctions,” he said. “If it ultimately gets in front of a judge and jury, the NCAA could face monetary damages.”
James N. Bryant, of Bryant & Cantorna, P.C., said it is no surprise that Corbett filed the response to the motion to dismiss and that the factual error that Corbett pointed out is one of the many aspects that could affect the case.
The main factors or underlying questions in the case are whether the NCAA had authority to issue these kinds of sanctions, and whether the university has a state interest in the fines, he said.
One of the biggest arguments on the side of the NCAA, Bryant said, will be the constitutionality of the sanctions. In the NCAA’s separate lawsuit against Corbett, the NCAA cited the U.S. Constitution as one of the main reasons why Corbett could not keep the fine money in the commonwealth.
Though Bryant said he has no opinion of which side has a stronger case, he said “Corbett certainly has a more compelling case.”
Bryant, McClenahen and Ross all said that it is unclear when the judge will issue an opinion on whether to dismiss the case, but Bryant said it would likely come in the months ahead.
“You’ll get a decision probably by early in June and then the case should conclude by football season,” Bryant said.