NCAA seeks dismissal of Gov. Tom Corbett’s lawsuit over Penn State sanctions

mdawson@centredaily.comFebruary 8, 2013 

The NCAA wants a federal judge to throw out the lawsuit Gov. Tom Corbett filed to overturn the sanctions against Penn State over the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal.

In a motion to dismiss filed Thursday, the NCAA’s lawyers said Corbett does not have the legal standing to sue and that the sanctions against Penn State do not violate antitrust laws as the governor contended.

“In this case the (g)overnor seeks, under the guise of antitrust law, to overrule his fellow (t)rustees and usurp discretion that the (l)egislature delegated to PSU,” the NCAA’s lawyers wrote. “This lawsuit is an inappropriate attempt to drag the federal courts into an intra-state political dispute.”

The NCAA said Judge Yvette Kane should dismiss it with prejudice, meaning Corbett would not be able to refile.

Penn State is not a party in the suit.

Corbett filed the lawsuit on Jan. 2, accusing the NCAA of violating antitrust laws by weakening Penn State’s football team and hurting the local economy. The governor also said the NCAA overstepped its own rulebook by penalizing Penn State for Sandusky’s criminal behavior.

The NCAA said it disagreed with almost all of Corbett’s accusations, saying the target of its sanctions was Penn State, and not Pennsylvania residents, which would mean the governor does not have the legal standing to fight them.

According to the suit, the governor did not show the sanctions raised prices or reduced output, which would be required under antitrust law. Further, the NCAA said, the sanctions are “an assertion of basic values” and do not restrict commercial trade.

The NCAA went on to say that the sanctions were not about Sandusky but rather people like former head coach Joe Paterno, whom the organization, in its bylaws, would expect to show “exemplary conduct” as a coach.

According to the NCAA, the sanctions were “addressed to the behavior of senior (u)niversity officials, including the former head football coach, who learned of evidence of Sandusky’s crimes and chose not to act — for reasons that, as Penn State has acknowledged, included an appropriate culture of reverence for the football program and a desire to protect it.”

The evidence was turned up during the investigation by former FBI director Louis Freeh and suggested university leaders Paterno, Graham Spanier, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz knew about Sandusky’s behavior in showers with young boys.

The men’s attorneys have blasted the Freeh report.

The NCAA used Freeh’s report as the basis for the sanctions that include a $60 million fine, a four-year post-season bowl ban, deleting 112 wins from the record books and a reduction in scholarships.

The governor claimed the sanctions would render Penn State a weaker opponent on the football field and have a snowball effect of hurting the local economy as fewer people turn out to support the team. But the NCAA said restaurateurs or businessmen or women who suffer financial losses as a consequence under this scenario do not qualify as harmed under antitrust laws.

Further, the NCAA said, the suit should be thrown out because it would set precedent by expanding the scope of people who could sue in future antitrust claims.

Legal experts interviewed after Corbett filed the lawsuit expected the NCAA to ask to have it dismissed.

One called the lawsuit a “tough sell” because the governor would have to show harm to competition and a negative impact on consumers. But another said he thought the lawsuit made a “credible argument” that the NCAA went beyond its authority.

Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616. Follow him on Twitter @MikeDawsonCDT.

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