The family of former Penn State University head football coach Joe Paterno on Friday, August 3, 2012, requested an appeal of the NCAA’s sanctions against Penn State’s administrative actions in concealing former football coach Jerry Sandusky’s child sexual abuse. The NCAA subsequently denied the Paterno family appeal. The Paterno family’s appeal request may be the first step of a legal challenge against the NCAA.
In the August 3 letter, the Paterno family lawyers requested an “open hearing” before the NCAA Division I Infractions Appeals Committee for an appeal of the sanctions imposed against Penn State on July 23, 2012. The sanctions include a $60 million fine, a four-year postseason ban, scholarship reductions, a five-year probation period and the vacating of wins by Paterno from 1998 through 2011. In particular, the Paterno family August 3 letter stated:
“The estate undertakes this appeal to redress the enormous damage done to Penn State, the State College community, former, current and future student and student athletes, Joe Paterno and certain others involved, as a result of the unprecedented actions take by the NCAA.
It will become evident in a thorough an impartial review, the NCAA acted hastily and without any regard for due process. Furthermore, the NCAA and Penn State’s Board Chair and President entirely ignored the fact that the Freeh Report, on which these extraordinary penalties are based, is deeply flawed because it is incomplete, rife with unsupported opinions and unquestionably one-sided. The NCAA and Penn State’s leadership, by accepting and adopting the conclusions of the Freeh report, have maligned all of the above without soliciting contrary opinions or challenging a single finding of the Freeh report. Given the extraordinary penalty handed out, prudence and justice require that scrupulous adherence to due process be observed and not completely ignored.”
The Michael L. Buckner Law Firm has commented in prior posts [Post 1; Post 2] the NCAA’s sanctions have charted an unprecedented, and perhaps unconstitutional, course of action. Federal and state courts have opined that membership organizations, including athletics associations like the NCAA, are required to provide procedures that protect their members against arbitrary and irrational action. [See, e.g., Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618 627 n.6 (1969); Florida High School Ass’n, Inc. v. Thomas, 409 So.2d 245, 247-48 (Fla. 3d DCA 1982).] Thus, an NCAA rule or decision cannot be applied unreasonably so that it creates different classes of schools or individuals.
[Note: The Michael L. Buckner Law Firm extends its sympathy to the victims in this scandal (who should always be at the forefront of any conversation in this case). The firm believes in the rule of law and, as a result, supports the sanctioning of any organization or individual who commits a crime or engages in misconduct through an established process and by an entity that possesses proper jurisdiction.]