Paterno family sues NCAA over Penn State sanctions; five trustees, several ex-players join as plaintiffs

mmorgan@centredaily.comMay 30, 2013 

Representatives of the family of the late Joe Paterno said the family will sue the NCAA over sanctions against Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse trial.

Paterno family lawyer Wick Sollers, Paterno family spokesman Dan McGinn and former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh announced the lawsuit late Wednesday on the NBC Sports Network program “Costas Tonight.”

The suit, to be filed Thursday in Centre County court, will challenge the NCAA, President Mark Emmert and the former chairman of the executive committee, Edward Ray, concerning the consent decree that led to heavy penalties against the university last summer. An exclusive interview aired close to midnight Wednesday.

The suit seeks to overturn the sanctions, provide compensatory and punitive damages from the NCAA for improper conduct and breach of contract and reimbursement for legal costs, according to a news release from the family. The family will donate any net monetary gains to charity.

The six counts against the NCAA include breach of contract, civil conspiracy, defamation and commercial disparagement.

Sollers said on the show that the complete adoption of the Louis Freeh report and the binding nature of the consent decree needs to be challenged. The consent decree bound the university to sanctions including a $60 million fine, scholarship reductions, a four-year bowl ban and the loss of more than 100 wins for the football program.

“The reality is that consent decree was imposed through coercion and threats behind the scenes and there was no ability for anyone to get redress,” Sollers said. “There was no board approval, there was no transparency, and there was no consideration of this consent decree.”

Host Bob Costas also re-examined the Freeh report as it relates to Paterno.

The family challenged the Freeh report in February, with individual reports from Sollers, Thornburgh, former FBI profiler Jim Clemente and Fred Berlin, an expert on sexual disorders.

The suit will also include Penn State trustees Ryan McCombie, Anthony Lubrano, Alvin Clemens, Peter Khoury and Adam Taliaferro, faculty members Peter Bordi, Terry Engelder, Spencer Niles and John O’Donnell former players Anthony Adams, Gerald Cadogan, Shamar Finney, Justin Kurpeikis, Richard Gardner, Josh Gaines, Patrick Mauti, Anwar Phillips and Michael Robinson and former coaches William Kenney and Jay Paterno, according to the release.

Penn State as a whole will not take part, spokesman Dave LaTorre wrote in an email Wednesday afternoon.

“The university is not a party to any lawsuit against the NCAA that may be filed by the Paterno family,” he said.

LaTorre said Penn State remains committed to complying with the consent decree regarding the NCAA sanctions against the school and working with athletics integrity monitor George Mitchell to move the university forward.

McGinn said the suit will help to “correct the record.”

“When I speak of the damage, it’s not just to the Paterno family, the Paterno name; it is to Penn State, a great institution that has a great history and tradition in sports,” he says on the show. “It’s to the alums there, the students, the faculty, and the community. The NCAA wreaked enormous damage to this community, and this is just one way to get the record right.”

Attorneys representing the plaintiffs are Wick Sollers, managing partner of King & Spalding’s Washington, D.C., office and Paul Kelly, a partner in the Boston office of the Jackson Lewis firm.

The NCAA declined comment Wednesday, Chief Legal Officer Donald Remy said in a statement. He said the organization will continue to work with Penn State toward successful completion of the agreement.

Matt Morgan can be reached at 235-3928. Follow him on Twitter @MetroMattMorgan.

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