Our View | Court made right call concerning Penn State’s NCAA fine

September 7, 2013 

Penn State’s $60 million NCAA fine should stay in Pennsylvania, where Jerry Sandusky’s crimes occurred and where his victims lived.

That’s why we applaud the state Commonwealth Court’s ruling this week that kept alive a lawsuit filed by state Sen. Jake Corman and state Treasurer Rob McCord challenging the NCAA’s plans to shift a significant portion of the fine money elsewhere.

Penn State’s consent decree with the NCAA outlines penalties tied to the Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. The sanctions include this huge fine, a postseason bowl ban, the loss of football scholarships and the vacating of wins from 1998 to 2011.

The $60 million is to support child abuse awareness and prevention programs.

Corman, R-Benner Township, and McCord sued the NCAA on behalf of the state early this year in an attempt to keep the fine money here.

As we’ve reported, Penn State gave up its $2.26 million share of Big Ten Conference bowl revenue as part of its Sandusky-related penalties. Of that total, one-12th will return to our region while the rest will be split among other Big Ten communities.

Since all Big Ten teams that qualified for bowls contributed to the pot from which this revenue is drawn, we understand the logic that the forfeited money would be shared across the conference.

But we don’t see the NCAA fine the same way.

This money comes directly from Penn State, which receives state funding here, serves students on campuses here and employs thousands across Pennsylvania.

The fine money should stay here. All of it.

The court ruled that the NCAA consent decree does not say where the money must be spent.

Indeed, when the sanctions came down in July 2012, the NCAA said only that “proceeds of this fine may not be used to fund programs at the university.”

Last fall, the NCAA said at least 25 percent of the fine money would stay in Pennsylvania, which likewise means as much as 75 percent would not.

Penn State is making five annual payments of $12 million, the first of which is in escrow awaiting a ruling on who controls how it will be used.

“The consent decree does not contain a scintilla of language that suggests the NCAA will have ownership of or control over the fine paid by PSU,” Judge Anne Covey wrote in the court’s majority opinion rejecting the NCAA’s appeal to dismiss the lawsuit.

Corman and McCord’s lawsuit followed the passage of the Endowment Act, which called for the money to remain in Pennsylvania under the control of the treasurer.

The NCAA then argued that the state government did not have authority to challenge the ruling without Penn State on board as a plaintiff.

The NCAA also argued that the Endowment Act violated the Pennsylvania and United States constitutions, another assertion the Commonwealth Court dismissed.

The NCAA has until late September to respond to the ruling. It has an ally on the high court in Judge Dan Pelligrini, who wrote in the dissenting opinion that he would have dismissed the lawsuit.

Fortunately, a majority of the Commonwealth Court judges made the appropriate decision.

Corman told reporter Mike Dawson that he felt “vindicated” by the ruling.

We know this fight is far from over.

But the court’s decision is a positive moment in a long battle to do the right thing: Keep the Penn State fine money in Pennsylvania.

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