Federal judge weighs fate of Corbett suit vs. NCAA

Federal judge weighs fate of Corbett suit vs. NCAA
May 20, 2013, 6:45 pm
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Tom Corbett sued the NCAA, claiming the $60 million fine and other penalties levied against Penn State over its handling of the Jerry Sandusky scandal violated federal antitrust rules. (AP)

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Gov. Tom Corbett will learn within the next few weeks whether his federal lawsuit against the NCAA over the penalties handed down against Penn State will be allowed to continue, following a nearly two-hour hearing Monday in Harrisburg.

Corbett sued the NCAA in January, claiming the $60 million fine and other penalties levied against Penn State over its handling of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal violated federal antitrust rules.

Scott Ballenger, representing the NCAA, said the actions it took against Penn State are not likely to harm to the overall market for higher education or even the market for top-caliber football players, arguing antitrust law did not apply and that if anything, the Penn State sanctions were imposed to improve the competitiveness of college sports.

He said the NCAA moved against Penn State to enforce rules about honesty, sportsmanship and conduct, rather than out of a conspiracy to help other schools at Penn State's expense.

"These are rules about preserving the basic character and integrity of athletic competition and its relation to the goals, the most important goals, of higher education," Ballenger said. The NCAA and its members, he said, have a right to determine how they want to maintain college sports' tradition of amateur athletics.

Along with the fine, the consent agreement also imposed a four-year ban on postseason play, a temporary reduction in scholarships and the elimination of more than 100 wins under former coach Joe Paterno. The deal has angered many Penn State fans and alumni.

A weakened Penn State football program has implications for students, businesses and others, said Jim Schultz, Corbett's general counsel.

"Penn State football is an economic power source for the commonwealth and its citizens," Schultz told Kane, and that power source would be "seriously damaged" by the NCAA.

The university agreed to the penalties and is not a party to the case. Corbett described the penalties as an illegal effort by the NCAA to increase the power of its own president and give some schools a competitive advantage.

U.S. District Judge Yvette Kane said she plans to rule on the dismissal request in the next couple of weeks.

Sandusky, the team's former longtime defensive coach, was convicted last summer of 45 counts of child sexual abuse and is serving a 30- to 60-year state prison sentence. He maintains he was convicted unfairly and is pursuing appeals.

A separate federal civil case filed by the NCAA, currently pending before the same judge, challenges a state law passed earlier this year that requires the Penn State fine to stay within Pennsylvania.