HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The NCAA said Thursday it wants a judge to throw out the federal antitrust lawsuit the governor filed against it over Penn State’s $60 million fine and other penalties resulting from the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal.
College sports’ governing body said in a filing Thursday it disagrees with just about every allegation in the complaint against it initiated by Gov. Tom Corbett last month.
The NCAA says the penalties imposed under a July consent decree with the university aren’t related to regulation of economic activity, so antitrust law doesn’t apply. It also argues Corbett lacks standing to sue. It calls the governor’s lawsuit “an inappropriate attempt to drag the federal courts into an intra-state political dispute.”
Corbett has said the NCAA overstepped its authority. His office didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment on the NCAA filing.
Corbett claimed in the lawsuit the NCAA “piled on” when it penalized Penn State over the Sandusky scandal. He asked that a federal judge throw out the sanctions, which include an unprecedented $60 million fine and a four-year ban on bowl games, arguing that the measures have harmed students, business owners and others who had nothing to do with Sandusky’s crimes.
The case could define just how far the NCAA’s authority extends. Up to now, the federal courts have allowed the organization broad powers to protect the integrity of college athletics.
The NCAA had said the lawsuit had no merit and called it an “affront” to Sandusky’s victims.
Penn State said it had no role in the lawsuit. In fact, it agreed not to sue as part of the deal with the NCAA accepting the sanctions, which were imposed in July after an investigation found that football coach Joe Paterno and other top officials hushed up sexual-abuse allegations against Sandusky, a former member of Paterno’s staff, for more than a decade for fear of bad publicity.
Sandusky, who’s in his late 60s, was convicted in June of sexually abusing 10 boys, some of them on Penn State’s campus. He is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence but insists he’s innocent.
The penalties against Penn State include a cut in the number of football scholarships the university can award and a rewriting of the record books to erase 14 years of victories under Paterno, who was fired when the scandal broke in late 2011 and died of lung cancer shortly after.
The lawsuit represents a reversal by the governor. When Penn State’s president consented to the sanctions last summer, Corbett, a member of the Board of Trustees, embraced them as part of the university’s effort to repair the damage from the Sandusky scandal.
Corbett said he waited to sue over the penalties because he wanted to thoroughly research the legal issues and did not want to interfere with the football season.
The deal with the NCAA has been unpopular with many fans, students and alumni.
Two Pennsylvania congressmen, Charlie Dent and Glenn Thompson, called for the NCAA to restore football scholarships taken away from Penn State, saying in a letter last month the sanctions unfairly punish innocent student-athletes for the child sex abuse scandal.
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)