BELLEFONTE — Penn State trustee Anthony Lubrano rejected the notion that historic sanctions handed down by the NCAA actually helped the university.
An attorney for the NCAA argued Tuesday that Penn State benefited by agreeing to the sanctions, because the university otherwise risked even stiffer penalties.
“That’s a hollow argument,” Lubrano said later outside the Centre County Courthouse.
Inside the courthouse, NCAA attorneys asked a judge to dismiss a civil lawsuit brought by Lubrano and others, including the Paterno family, that seeks to have the sanctions lifted.
NCAA lawyer Everett Johnson argued the lawsuit lacks legal merit because Penn State isn’t a party. He said the university would lose the benefits of the consent decree if the sanctions were overturned, and therefore should be a part of any suit seeking that.
“If the court were to invalidate the consent decree, that would, of course, restore that risk to the equation,” he said.
Johnson suggested the NCAA would renew its pursuit of stiff punishment, including the “death penalty” for the Penn State football program, if the sanctions were overturned.
Lubrano, however, was dismissive of that possibility after the hearing Tuesday.
“I don’t believe that would happen,” he said.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs, who include the Paterno family, Penn State trustees, former Nittany Lion players, former coaches and several university faculty, believe the NCAA had no standing to impose sanctions and acted outside its jurisdiction.
Lubrano said he also took issue Tuesday with suggestions from NCAA attorneys that the Penn State board of trustees reviewed the Freeh report.
The Penn State-commissioned investigation led by former FBI director Louis Freeh found top university officials covered up child sexual abuse allegations against Jerry Sandusky and later lied to an investigating grand jury. The Freeh report served as the basis of the NCAA sanctions.
“There were a few moments I wanted to jump out of my chair when supposed facts were being introduced that weren’t factual,” Lubrano said. “The notion that as a board, we accepted the NCAA actions, those are the kinds of things that jumped out at me.”
Wick Sollers, the Paterno family lawyer, said he was optimistic the case will move forward and that “we will be able to get discovery as to what was really going on behind the scenes on the consent decree and the NCAA’s actions.”
“We wanted transparency all along,” Sollers said.
Lubrano also stressed the importance of getting information from the NCAA.
“This is a very complicated case, and the path of least resistance for most is just to move on,” Lubrano said. “But in my view as a trustee at Penn State, that would be inappropriate because, as a community, we need to heal, and we can’t heal until we get more information.
“Hopefully the end result of this is we get more information,” he said.
Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.