Keeping Score

Politics, Penn State Football, and Pennsylvania’s NCAA Lawsuit

Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett is taking on the NCAA. But why now?

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REUTERS/Craig Houtz

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett speaks at a news conference on the Penn State campus in State College, Pennsylvania January 2, 2013. Corbett said he will file a federal lawsuit against the NCAA over sanctions it levied against Pennsylvania State University in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal. Over three dozen local and state officials along with Penn State students and former Penn State players took part in the news conference.

Penn State‘s football team exceeded all expectations this season. Following the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky scandal — which included the firing, and then death, of legendary coach Joe Paterno, Sandusky’s conviction and an effective life sentence for the former assistant coach, an NCAA penalty for Penn State that included a four-year postseason ban, scholarship reductions, and a $60 million fine, and the subsequent defection of star running back Silas Redd and eight other players to other schools — the team’s 8-4 record was one of the biggest surprises in all of college football. The team, and more importantly, the school and the entire state, seemed to be moving on from the scandal.

But the Republican governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett, announced on Wednesday that the state was filing a federal lawsuit against the NCAA over the “harsh, unjustified, and unprecedented punishments” it handed down to Penn State’s football team. So why would Corbett file such a suit now, and put the Sandusky affair back in the conversation? “It’s transparently political,” says Thomas Baldino, a political science professor at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

Baldino notes that Corbett’s first major piece of business in the New Year concerned restoring the reputation of the Penn State football program, when the state faces so many other pressing issues, like finding money to improve crumbling infrastructure. This, he insists, is no accident. Corbett faces reelection in 2014. “He needs to make sure he is in good standing with Penn State alums,” Baldino says. Many alums are still upset that Penn State’s leadership didn’t more aggressively challenge the NCAA’s punishment of current Penn State football players and coaches, since they played absolutely no role in failing to report Sandusky’s abuse to local police. The state’s suit could score political points with this base.

(MORE: Penn State’s Legal Troubles Have Only Just Begun)

Plus, Corbett may face some heat from Kathleen Kane, the incoming attorney general, who takes office on Jan. 15. Kane, a Democrat, has promised to investigate Corbett’s handling of the Sandusky case when he was attorney general, before he took over as governor in 2011: Corbett, whose office took over the Sandusky probe in 2009, has been criticized for moving too slowly.

To defend himself, Corbett can not only play up Sandusky’s eventual conviction, but his concern for the people of Pennsylvania, since the suit argues that sanctions against Penn State football can hurt people who depend on the team’s success, “among them citizens who can earn income by working in the stadium on game days; the shop owners whose small businesses generate significant revenues from the sale of Penn State memorabilia, the students who help pay tuition by waiting tables filled with alumni and fans who patronize restaurants and bars before and after games; the hotel owners and employees whose jobs depend on the continued influx of tourists to central Pennsylvania; and the Penn State swimmers and other athletes whose programs are largely funded by football revenue.” The suit gives Corbett another talking point. “It can at least soften any of Kane’s attacks,” says Baldino.

But will the suit succeed?  The state faces a significant hurdle: Penn State president Rodney Erickson already signed a consent decree accepting the NCAA’s punishment, and Corbett sits on Penn State’s board of trustees. “We have taken a monster off the streets,” Corbett said in July, after the NCAA handed down its punishment, “and while we will never be able to repair the injury done to these children, we must repair the damage to this university. Part of that corrective process is to accept the serious penalties imposed by the NCAA on Penn State University and its football program.”

Six months ago, Corbett said that the NCAA’s sanctions were part of the healing process. Now, according to Corbett’s suit — he’s listed as a plaintiff in the complaint – these same sanctions “threaten to have a devastating, long-lasting, and irreparable effect on the Commonwealth, its citizens, and its economy.” That’s a pretty drastic about-face. Says Matthew Mitten, director of the National Sports Law Institute at the Marquette University Law School: “You can bet that the governor’s words from last summer will be quoted in the NCAA’s filings and response.”

MORE: Penn State of Mind

18 comments
jazzman71
jazzman71

Unanswered  question: When the the sports media know about the child abuse and when did they know it? It seems to me that it is very unlikely that the media over a 15-year period could not have heard or seen something. Could there have been a cover-up somewhere?

TimBerton
TimBerton

@jazzman71There was a cover up by ESPN in the Bernie Fine case so it is not out of the realm of possibility that sports writers covered up child sexual abuse.

In the Sandusky case, Mike McQueary reportedly discussed the 2001 shower incident in a Penn State chat room about 2004-05 but only described it as horseplay. That chat room activity alerted police about the incident because it popped up in a search of a police database done in 2010.

http://notpsu.blogspot.com/2012/08/20045-psu-messageboard-chat-gives.html

I don't think there was a coverup of the Mike McQueary allegations because no one thought is was a crime at the time, even McQueary. The most plausible explanation is that the police shamed McQueary into embellishing his testimony to help convict Sandusky. That is a common occurrence when police illegally tell witnesses about the horrible crimes a suspect has committed and ask for the witnesses' help.

It came out at the Sandusky trial, that the one police investigator, Joseph Leiter, accidentally left the tape recorder running when victim 4 took a smoking break. He told the victim's lawyer that the police often told witnesses about the sexual abuse alleged by other victims. He then told victim 4 that Sandusky abused 9 other boys, which may not have even been true. At trial, he lied under oath when asked about those things.

http://sports.yahoo.com/news/ncaaf--jerry-sandusky-trial-defense-testify-tape-victim-police.html

The above facts are not widely reported because they undercut the media narrative that there was a dastardly coverup by Penn State administrators.


emtfr
emtfr

As usual, sports writers try  to dabble in politics or legal matters outside their milieu, and get most of it wrong. 

There is no doubt that the Gov is losing in political clout and faces the threat of an investigation by the new Dem AG into his handling of the case.   There is also no doubt he has so far failed to address his own State's welfare and law enforcement failures in this case, and allowed the media to run amok blaming only the Penn State University persons allegedly involved.   Notably the roles of The Second Mile Charity, the CYS, the DPW, and some officers involved who perjured themselves on the stand.

This "moving on" crapola statement in regards to Penn State has got to go. 

Wrong things happened in many more venues than just at the U , and those suspected at the U have been tried or face upcoming trials.      This is a criminal matter, not a sports or NCAA matter.   OK, now file that away and quit with the moral and political nonsense.   The criminal matters have been and continue to be adjudicated in a court of law where they belong.  Other investigations continue.

 This lawsuit is against the NCAA as a "trade association". It is an "Antitrust Lawsuit".  Look up what Antitrust law covers. The Governor is named as a plaintiff "PARENS PATRIE", look up the term.  He is filing on behalf of the citizens of his Commonwealth, who cannot seek justice alone.  It has to do with economic and business issues, and unfair competition.  It also has to do with a MONOPOLY , the NCAA, going outside its own purposes, policies, bylaws and procedures, to intervene in a criminal matter  not under its  purview, to eliminate a competitor. It is against the law!!!!!!

Whatever your moral or political or emotional feelings about the actions of one criminal, or the behavior of school officials who have not yet had their due process is, yet ANOTHER crime has occurred.   And it is being addressed.


Get over yourselves and your moral high ground and what ifs and I could have done better. ALL of you reading and writing have a pedophile or other type of sexual offender  right now under you noses or in you families or in yourcommunity  that has not yet been discovered.   And some of you may be stating at some time int he future, "I didn't know"!   Get out and do something about it or be quiet. It's your choice.


emtfr
emtfr

Correction of you* to your and typos aside, the whole country needs to stop pointing fingers and mind its own back yard.   

These comments are addressed not only at the writer, but  at ALL media writers and talking heads who have not done their homework on the various issues.  

Also specifically to commenters on every article on the subject,  not just this one, who continue to play the moral and political and victim cards, having no grasp of what truly happened and blindly accept the uneducated opinions of their favorite writer, media outlet, or political party without delving into and finding out what the media missed or does not care to report.

eagle11772
eagle11772

While some people may tink the NCAA penalties were too harsh, I don't think they were punishment enough.  If it were up to me, the NCAA punishments against Penn State would have been far harsher, and Sandusky would have recieved the death penalty, as well as that snake Paterno, had he lived.  The university, and the victims, should sue the Paterno estate for every cent it has.

TimBerton
TimBerton like.author.displayName 1 Like

@eagle11772 Why bother with due process or innocent until proven guilty? If it was up to you I guess Richard Jewell would have been executed before it came out that Freeh's FBI made a mistake, and Jewell was not the Olympic Park bomber.

What if the Penn State administrators are all found not guilty? What if McQueary admits that he changed his story under pressure from the police? What if victim 2 gives a statement that he was not molested the night McQueary saw him in the showers with Sandusky? (Oh, that already happened.)


eagle11772
eagle11772

Sandusky DID recieve due process and a fair trial.  He was CONVICTED.  Paterno almost certainly would have been indicted had he not the good fortune of dying first.  May he rot in hell forever for his criminality in covering up Sandusky's crimes.  If Paterno was such a saint, as some contend, then why did he NOT fire Sandusky, and report this rapist to the police ?

emtfr
emtfr

@eagle11772 Good thing it's not up to you!  Especially since it's not about football, and was only painted that way to cover other people.

emtfr
emtfr

@eagle11772 This lawsuit is not about Sandusky. Get over that part and concentrate on what it is about. 

TimBerton
TimBerton

@eagle11772  Sorry if I misinterpreted your statement. It makes even less sense to punish Penn State 100 years in the future for crimes committed by a coach who retired in 1999. 

You also said you wanted "every victory they had wiped from record books." That goes back over 100 years, way before Paterno and Sandusky were even born so also makes no sense whatsoever.

I told you who Bill Tilden was, a seven-time U.S.Open Tennis Champion who was convicted of child molestation. His conviction didn't erase any of his many championships.



eagle11772
eagle11772

You misread what I wrote.  I wasn't talking about the previous 100 years.  Abolishing the football program for the NEXT 100 years would be an appropriate punishment.  And I have no idea who Bill Tilden is.

TimBerton
TimBerton

@eagle11772 Going back 100 years, to1913, to wipe out football wins just shows how illogical you are. Sandusky only starting working at Penn State in 1969 and the shower incident only happened in 2001.

If you believe child rapists should be put to death, then lobby your elected officials to change to law. 

Wiping away football games wins from the record book for Sandusky's crimes was silly. Maybe we should also rewrite all the history books so Hitler's Germany never won any battles in WW2 because Hitler was a mass murderer.

The ESPN announcers for the 2013 Orange Bowl ignored the NCAA and repeatedly mentioned that the last BCS bowl for Florida State was a loss to Penn State in 2006. 

Bill Tilden was a convicted pedophile but he is still the official seven-time U.S.Open Tennis Champion.



eagle11772
eagle11772

If it was up to me, the entire Penn State football program would be completely abolished for 100 years, and every "victory" they had wiped from the record books.  What is the proper punishment for a child rapist and his accomplices who cover up his crimes ?  I think a child rapist deserves, and should always get, the death penalty.  Why should a child rapist NOT be put to death ? !

TimBerton
TimBerton

@eagle11772 You are wrong that Paterno should not have fired Sandusky in 2001. That was impossible because Sandusky retired in 1999. Sandusky was found not guilty on the charge of raping the boy in 2001.

Just because Sandusky was convicted in 2012 does not make Curley, Schultz and Spanier guilty for their actions in 2001. That's another trial that hasn't yet, and may never, happen. A new Attorney General takes over January 15, and she may drop some or all the charges due to weak evidence.

The PA Attorney General said Paterno followed the reporting law in 2001 and was a cooperating witness.

 Read the Sandusky trial transcripts and the entire Freeh report if you want to know some of the facts.

TimBerton
TimBerton

I think Corbett has done tremendous damage to Penn State but maybe he can do something good if his lawsuit succeeds. PSU President Erickson insists that the NCAA threatened the death penalty unless he agreed to the sanctions. The NCAA insists the death penalty was never on the table because it does too much damage to other schools with all the canceled games. If they have to testify under oath for a trial, maybe the truth will come out.

The NCAA clearly overreached in a rush to judgement with incomplete evidence. They violated their own bylaws. 

Erickson should never have been made President because he enabled Sandusky by approving his emeritus status despite his own serious reservations. He seems spineless to me. He couldn't stand up to Spanier or the NCAA.


eagle11772
eagle11772

Alright, here's a solution that should please everyone involved:  Shut down PSU completely, sell all of their assets, and give the proceeds to the victims of these horrendous crimes that university officals did nothing to stop.  There are thousands of other colleges that the students and football players can attend instead.  PSU is NOT the only univeristy with a football team in the U.S.  Or are you now going to say that the victims of these horrendous crimes don't deserve that much ? 

TimBerton
TimBerton

@eagle11772 That's just ridiculous. Sandusky's victims have not called for Penn State to be closed down. Two have made public statements that they didn't want the NCAA sanctions.

There have been serious crimes (rapes, murders) at many, many universities so we soon would have very few if we closed down every university where a serious crime had been committed. There were 32 people murdered and 17 wounded in the VA Tech massacre, and I never heard the survivors or the victims' relatives call for VA Tech to be closed.

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