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College Sports, Division I

Penn State to Adhere to NCAA Sanctions, Lawsuit Could Prove Damaging to NCAA

On January 2, 2013, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett announced he is suing the NCAA on behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania over sanctions given to Penn State’s football program in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. According to a USA Today article, Corbett called the sanctions “unlawful and overreaching and said they were an ‘attack’ on students and the economy of the Commonwealth.” The anti-trust lawsuit is being filed in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg.

However, Pennsylvania State University officials said they plan on complying with the NCAA’s sanctions despite the lawsuit filed by Corbett. The institution released the following statement regarding the issue:

“The University is committed to full compliance with the Consent Decree, the Athletics Integrity Agreement and, as appropriate, the implementation of the Freeh report recommendations. We look forward to continuing to work with Sen. George Mitchell as the athletic integrity monitor for complete fulfillment of the Athletics Integrity Agreement. We recognize the important role that intercollegiate athletics provides for our student athletes and the wider University community. Penn State continues to move forward with an unwavering commitment to excellence and integrity in all aspects of our University and continues to be a world-class educational institution of which our students, faculty, staff and alumni can be justifiably proud.”

The lawsuit by Pennsylvania will again put the NCAA’s expansive power to punish member institutions under judicial review. However, as stated in yesterday’s post, lawsuits challenging the NCAA’s regulatory power have typically involved a student-athlete, coach or institution and were related to athletics issues. This case is different because the facts do not seem to fit within past case precedent. Because the precedent in this case is not as clear, if Pennsylvania is able to fight off a pretrial motion to dismiss, a plaintiff with these types of resources, could cause the NCAA to experience hardship even without winning a lawsuit. Antitrust lawsuits usually include a great deal of discovery, which could cause the NCAA to turn over documents and release information that may continue to weaken public and membership trust and the organization’s vast regulatory power.

 

 

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About Justin P. Sievert, Esquire

Bar Admissions (North Carolina, Florida and Tennessee) Practice Area (College Sports Law)

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