Joe Paterno was a target of the NCAA’s questions into the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, the late coach’s estate said in court documents Monday.
In a motion filed in Centre County Court, the plaintiffs challenge the NCAA’s opposition to the amended suit, including the college sports organization’s insistence that Paterno, who helmed the Nittany Lions from 1966 to 2011, had no standing in the proceedings because he was never part of the investigation.
“In fact, in a Nov. 17, 2011, letter to President Rodney Erickson, the NCAA’s (President Mark) Emmert expressed concern over a grand jury presentation that expressly referenced Coach Paterno and made clear that he ‘was one of the individuals that Emmert and the NCAA had decided to investigate,’ ” attorneys for the estate wrote.
One exhibit submitted — a draft copy of suggested questions for the Penn State-commissioned Louis Freeh investigation sent by NCAA general counsel Donald Remy — included numerous questions about the athletics department.
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“How is the ‘power coach’ held accountable for upholding the rules and acting ethically?” and “Describe the policies and procedures to hold head coaches responsible to promote an atmosphere for compliance within the program ...” were on that list, which was emailed to Freeh investigator Omar McNeill on Dec. 28, 2011.
The estate’s attorneys contend the evidence points to accusations against Paterno for alleged violations.
They also question when the NCAA’s investigation began, something they claim the defendants don’t specify.
The NCAA allegedly waited for the release of the Freeh report before going forward with the consent decree that allowed for unprecedented sanctions against Penn State, including a $60 million fine, a five-year suspension, four-year bowl ban, severe curtailing of scholarships and stripping of 111 football wins.
“The NCAA’s argument that it did not begin an investigation because it did not follow its own rules for opening an investigation is just more ‘circuitous logic,’ ” the plaintiffs wrote.
They also claim it is inconsistent with documents that have come to light in discovery, like the Remy/McNeill communications, showing a close cooperation between the NCAA and the Freeh Group.
The estate also contends that Paterno’s death in January 2012 shouldn’t affect contract law, claiming that, in Pennsylvania, only personal service contracts end at death. The NCAA asserted that its rules and charter were a protection of personal rights that end with the holder’s death, a position the estate dismisses.
“That makes no sense,” the attorneys wrote, claiming the protections were not “merely personal in nature,” but have a “broad institutional purpose” in seeing that the organization’s rules are enforced.
The estate urged the court to dismiss the NCAA’s opposition and move ahead with the case.
“It is past time for the truth to come out, for their obstructionist tactics to end and for this litigation to move forward,” the attorneys wrote. “Instead of countenancing any further delay, the court should overrule the NCAA defendants’ preliminary objections and allow this case to proceed on its merits.”