Earlier today, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett announced that the state is suing the NCAA to overturn all of the sanctions it imposed on Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
Corbett, in a suit to be filed in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg, will ask that the whole menu of punishments be voided, on the argument that the NCAA - which regulates collegiate athletics - did not follow its own rules in handing them down.Read the lawsuit here (warning, self-downloading PDF). It claims that the NCAA had no authority to intervene in the matter at all, since there was no effect on competitive balance or integrity on the playing field.
"These sanctions are an attack on past, present and future students of Penn State, the citizens of our commonwealth and our economy," Corbett said. "As governor of this state, I cannot and will not stand by and let it happen without a fight."
What Corbett overlooks, though, is that the NCAA also has the power to ensure that a school is controlling the program, and not the other way around. The NCAA felt compelled to step in because based on evidence that came out even before the Freeh report, it was obvious that Penn State's control over the football program was lax at best and nonexistent at worst. At the very least, based on that evidence, Paterno should have been fired in 2001 when he suggested that the shower incident that took place that year should be handled internally. Indeed, based on evidence that Penn State assistant coaches knew Sandusky was molesting boys for some time and didn't report it, one can make a pretty good argument that if Graham Spanier and Tim Curley had mounted any sort of investigation after the 1998 shower incident, Paterno would have been fired then. While I think the NCAA could have waited until the federal criminal investigation and the Clery Act probe were complete, I can understand why it stepped in when it did. The NCAA will likely argue that Penn State's inaction violated basic principles of intercollegiate athletics.
If Corbett wins this suit--and based on legal analysis I've read so far, it's an awfully big if--it could set all of sports law on its ear.
Corbett said he's also suing to limit the likely economic damage the sanctions will do to both Penn State and the state. But where was that concern when he was attorney general? There's pretty compelling evidence that Corbett dragged his feet in investigating Sandusky, even though by all accounts he had enough evidence to make an arrest as early as 2009. According to Aaron Fisher (Victim 1)'s book, Aaron was given no fewer than three arrest dates with no action. Corbett is pretty much asking to be forced to defend his handling of the investigation under oath. I didn't know there were stores in the Pittsburgh area (where Corbett lives) where you can buy cojones that big.