Jerry Sandusky Scandal

NCAA executives’ lawyers try to argue out of Paterno suit

Lawyers for NCAA President Mark Emmert, pictured, and former executive committee chairman Ed Ray presented arguments to Judge John Leete in Centre County court on Friday, pushing to be cut from the Paterno estate’s lawsuit.
Lawyers for NCAA President Mark Emmert, pictured, and former executive committee chairman Ed Ray presented arguments to Judge John Leete in Centre County court on Friday, pushing to be cut from the Paterno estate’s lawsuit. The Associated Press, file

Ed Ray, the president of Oregon State, would really like to not be part of the lawsuit brought against the NCAA by the estate of longtime Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.

So would NCAA President Mark Emmert.

The two men are named defendants in the lawsuit, alongside the college sports oversight organization. The Paternos are suing over the fallout from the NCAA’s unprecedented sanctions against the university, including statements that put blame on Paterno in particular and the coaching staff in general, a staff that included co-plaintiffs and assistant coaches Bill Kenney and Paterno’s son, Jay.

On Friday, nine attorneys representing all parties gathered in front of Potter County Senior Judge John Leete to argue through issues including whether Ray and Emmert should still be part of a lawsuit that has already seen one defendant and a host of plaintiffs — including former football players, coaches, professors and trustees — dismissed.

Michael Sheetz, Ray’s attorney, argued that his client had no ties to Pennsylvania beyond a one-time vacation at Hershey.

“He’s been fairly outspoken on this whole issue,” Leete said.

Sheetz said that wasn’t accurate, and he claimed his client never read the consent decree between the NCAA and Penn State that ended in four years of postseason ban, probation, handcuffing of scholarships and a $60 million fine in response to the child sex abuse conviction of retired Nittany Lions defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky in 2012. Those penalties were overturned after a different lawsuit in 2015.

Sheetz said Ray participated in two meetings, appeared at a press conference announcing the penalties and spoke to the press afterward.

Leete disagreed.

“He certainly had input,” he said. “He expressed strong opinions.”

Sheetz countered that any effect was not against the Paternos or Kenney but against the university.

Paterno attorney Joseph Loveland said he found it “astonishing” that Ray was claiming so little part in the process.

“I think you will find, however I decide this, Dr. Ray was quite something other than an innocent bystander,” Leete said.

Emmert’s attorney made similar arguments. He said that his actions all took place in Indianapolis, and the Paternos allege effect nationwide, meaning there was little to no effect in Pennsylvania to the coach’s reputation, meaning there was no reason for his client to face a Pennsylvania court.

But Loveland said jurisdiction was obvious.

“What state would have the most effect? Would it be where Penn State is located?” Loveland asked.

“It just might be,” Leete said.

Leete did not make a decision Friday.

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