Gov. Corbett Sues NCAA Over Penn State Sanctions

The state of Pennsylvania is suing after the NCAA sanctioned Penn State.


Gov. Tom Corbett announced Wednesday that he is suing the National Collegiate Athletic Association for its sanctions against Penn State University.

Corbett called the sanctions arbitrary and illegal, saying they would hurt the university, the state and Pennsylvanians.

What do you think of this lawsuit? Tell us in the comments section below. (Scroll to below the complete text of Gov. Corbett’s statement.)

Press Release: Governor Tom Corbett today announced that he is suing the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), calling its sanctions against Penn State University arbitrary and illegal, saying they would result in irreparable economic damage to the university, the commonwealth and its citizens.

“Penn State football has played a major role, not only as a focus of campus life, but as a generator of revenue for a proud university, a leading tourist attraction and a creator of jobs in the state,’’ Corbett said.

“In the wake of this terrible scandal, Penn State was left to heal and clean up this tragedy that was created by the few. The students, the alumni, the board, the administration and faculty all came together at that moment and began to rebuild.

“At that same time, while the healing was taking place, the NCAA piled on, choosing to levy, in their words, ‘unprecedented sanctions’ against Penn State and its football program,’’ Corbett said.

“While what occurred at Penn State was both criminal and heinous,’’ Corbett said, “the conduct for which Penn State was sanctioned consisted of alleged failures to report criminal activity on campus that did not impact fairness or integrity on the playing field.’’

“These punishments threaten to have a devastating, long-lasting and irreparable effect on the state, its citizens and its economy,’’ Corbett said.

The governor, on behalf of Pennsylvania’s citizens, asked the court to throw out all of the NCAA’s sanctions, including the $60 million fine, and asked that the court declare the consent agreement illegal.

After months of research and deliberation, as well as discussions with alumni, students, faculty, business owners and elected officials, Corbett said he has concluded that the NCAA’s sanctions were “overreaching and unlawful.’’

“The only logical conclusion is that the NCAA did it because they benefited from the penalties and because the leadership of the NCAA believed they could. And that’s wrong,’’ Corbett said.

“These sanctions are an attack on past, present and future students of Penn State, the citizens of our commonwealth and our economy. As governor of this commonwealth, I cannot and will not stand by and let it happen without a fight.’’

The lawsuit, to be filed today in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg, also accuses the NCAA of forcing Penn State president Rodney Erickson into silent compliance with its sanctions by threatening to impose even more debilitating sanctions to the football program.

Corbett called NCAA's application of enforcement "arbitrary and capricious" with the intent of crippling Penn State football and harming the citizens of Pennsylvania who benefit from a successful football program at Penn State.

Such benefits, the governor added, range from a college student waitressing at a State College restaurant and local business owners, to its tremendous financial contribution to the university and the state.

The NCAA is a trade association whose major purpose is to set the rules for competition in intercollegiate athletics and exists by mutual consent of its members.

“However, the NCAA leadership can’t make up its own rules,’’ Corbett said. In this case, “a handful of top NCAA officials simply inserted themselves into an issue they had no authority to police and one that was clearly being handled by the justice system.’’

The fact that the alleged actions of those involved in the tragic events at Penn State were criminal, and that no violation of NCAA rules had been identified, would not dissuade Mark Emmert, NCAA president, from seizing upon the international publicity to make a show of unprecedented and aggressive discipline.

The NCAA simply informed Penn State what the punishments would be, threatening that if Penn State did not waive its right to due process and accept the sanctions offered, the NCAA would impose the "death penalty" for four years, which would forbid the football team from all competition.

The type of "complete cooperation" Emmert advised Penn State was clear: Accept unprecedented sanctions and ignore the NCAA's flagrant disregard of its own procedures in issuing such sanctions or Penn State would wish it had.

Penn State had no practical alternative but to accept the sanctions, including releasing players from their commitment to play in State College.

The additional four-year ban on bowl games will result in a drastic reduction in scholarships for a football team consisting of coaches and players who had nothing to do with the criminal conduct.

“They wiped out the wins for football alumni – who proudly wore the Penn State uniform and represented the university well during their time in school,’’ Corbett added.

Penn State’s football program is more than just a success on the playing field, it perennially boasts one of the highest graduation rates among Division I football programs and has been a significant economic driver of the university, playing an important role in enabling the university to offer a variety of first-rate programs through resources other than student tuition.

In addition:

  • It was the second most profitable collegiate athletic program in the nation in 2010-11, earning more than $50 million, and was the most profitable program among its immediate competitors in the Big Ten Conference.
  • It was the most valuable contributor to intercollegiate expenses for all student-athletes at the university, providing 37 percent of revenue for athletic programs in the 2011 fiscal year. At the same time, the football program amounted to only 15 percent of athletics expenses.

“The university is an economic engine, creating jobs, not only university-related jobs, but jobs in the hotel, restaurant and tourism industry and generating hundreds of millions of dollars for businesses of all sizes in the commonwealth.’’

Specifically, Penn State‘s football program:

  • Brings in an estimated 15 percent of visitors to Penn State football games from outside the state;
  • Generated $161.5 million to business volume impact in 2009, with $90 million benefitting Centre County alone;
  • Spent $16 million in Pennsylvania on goods and services with contractors and vendors in 2009 – essentially pumping money back into the state’s economy;
  • Creates about 2,200 jobs - both direct jobs, such as box office and concession staff, and indirect jobs, such as shopkeepers to restaurant and hotel staff; and
  • Generates more than $5 million in tax revenue and supports a number of community programs run through and in conjunction with football and student athletics.

“The NCAA and its president, Mark Emmert, seized upon the opportunity for publicity for their own benefit to make a showing of aggressive discipline on the backs of the citizens of our commonwealth and Penn State University,’’ Corbett said, “and this is why I have chosen to fight this in the courts.’’

“These sanctions did not punish Sandusky for his despicable and criminal action. Nor did they punish the others who have been charged criminally. Rather, they punished the past, present and future students, current and former student athletes, faculty members, local businesses and the citizens of Pennsylvania who have come to cherish this great university.’’

Limeport Resident January 03, 2013 at 12:17 PM
Good for him! After screwing up as AG to keep Sandusky off the streets, he is at least trying to minimize the damage to our state school. The NCAA is not a police force, has not done anything re rapes by football players at other schools and Penn State for that matter. Shows that they don't care about criminal activity -- only publicity. They should do their job of protecting athletes in their program, something they are not doing well. The only issue is whether Gov Corbett has any standing in court to bring the suit. If he does not, then he is just wasting taxpayer money. As a former AG he should know the law. I hope he can help undo the injustice to Penn State.
charles hampton January 03, 2013 at 01:46 PM
Corbett looks and sounds like a puppet.
Joe Sommers January 03, 2013 at 02:20 PM
Gov. Corbett is doing the right thing. Jerry Sandusky has been put away and his cronies who knew are next. Many innocent people/business's will be hurt by these NCAA sanctions. The NCAA is no different than the Liberals running this country... Their punishing the Producers to satisfy their haughty bylaws. Our local enonomy will take a big hit so they NCAA can send a message. . Good luck to Gov. Corbett . I hope he sticks it to em.
The Tycoon January 03, 2013 at 04:58 PM
Corbett's a llittle late on this. He is only trying to gain back popularity he lost during the Sandusky dilemna. He should not spend our money for something that we are not getting a return on. Where was he when the NCAA initially levied the fines and sanctions? Why didn't he release the grand jury findings when he was Atty. General? Because he knew it would hurt him when he ran for Governor.
Daniel E. Cohen January 07, 2013 at 12:01 PM
Corbett is the ultimate politician in the absolutely worst sense. As Attorney General, he totally botched the investigation of Sandusky, and effectively sentenced any number of children to abuse by Sansusky, but now he sees the bucks and the chance to bolster his re-election. He should be ashamed!!
Chandler January 07, 2013 at 02:06 PM
I do not agree that he should be able to sue the state and get the sanctions reduced or removed. . Every persons actions affect others--this is a good example how the actions of a one or a few have widespread consequences on many, many people. Let it stand as a lesson to all involved. There are countless other colleges for the Penn State students to go to or transfer to--they don't have to go to Penn State and feel like they are being punished.
phylliss ward January 07, 2013 at 02:06 PM
I believe that the players were innocent and that they should not have to pay the price for the ones that covered up the dirty deed and were not the ones to inflict the pain. Joe Paterno was the scape goat and should have his name cleared. The two that should face charges are of course Sandusky and that witness that saw the act. Had he gone to the police or called the police we would not have had this outcome. Penn State itself did not commit the crime, but the adults that should of known better. I hope that Corbett is able to fix the wrongs of the students and players have received through no fault of their own.
Mary Anne Looby January 07, 2013 at 02:22 PM
Yes, the town will be decimated without the revenues from big time football.
Limeport Resident January 07, 2013 at 03:38 PM
The issue is whether any body can impose themselves in areas that are not their purview. For example, can NCAA impose penalties because students at satellite PA State schools graduate at rates and scores less than State College campus kids? Why not? If not, then can they penalize Pa State because athlete students at these campuses score less than athletes at State College? Why should they not impose penalties on schools where crime is a serious concern, e.g., Temple's environs? Certainly, the "adult" administration can warn kids going there of consequences. and take more precautions to keep them safe! Why not penalize schools whose coach gets a DUI & puts the citizenry in jeopardy? NCAA should protect its athletes and the integrity of the game. They should not be involved in other issues-- they do a poor job following their charter-- focus on that!
Mary R January 07, 2013 at 03:43 PM
I'm not sure about the timing...or the fact that he is the one to start this action. But I do believe someone has to do it. He dropped the ball years ago when he was AG. I believe in punishing all of the guilty parties...but I also think the NCAA should not have been the judge and jury!!!
Limeport Resident January 07, 2013 at 03:50 PM
I don't think you can release Grand Jury testimony. Nor should he release findings when person is not indicted except when necessary to undo poor media coverage. To my mind, Corbett's sin was he did not ban Sandusky from Pa State facilities the day he was on the Board because, as he said, he just did not enough evidence to indite. But children were possibly in danger and he should have acted! If the motive is self serving but the consequence is good, why not? If it ends up that he has no standing in court, then taxpayer's money was wasted because he did not get good legal advice. Hopefully, that can be resolved soon-- before elections. But I am in favor of anything that Corbett does that benefits PA, rather than the stuff he has been doing harming the state.
Fae Danner January 07, 2013 at 05:22 PM
I've thought about the involvement of the NCAA, and am unable to process its having interjected itself into this situation in the manner in which it did. Being a logical thinker, I simply cannot understand how anyone can "wave a magic wand" and delete past winnings of the team. They occurred. Further, why is the football team, or the university, itself, for that matter, being drug into this? And, still further, what has the NCAA got to do with criminal matters, which is what this is? I do believe that all officials/adults who knew of Sandusky's actions and did not ensure that this matter was resolved properly with the justice system should be prosecuted. Unfortunately, Paterno, for whom I have great respect, would have been included had he lived. We all make mistakes but this was a whopper; and not only because it involved the violation of children but because it, once again, indicates that God and morals have been replaced by money!
Raymond Jameson January 07, 2013 at 07:02 PM
No Matter if he screwed up the investigation when he was the Attorney General for the Commonwealth, he is now the Governor, The highest offical in the state. He is looking out for the interests of the ENTIRE State and definately should sue the NCAA to get the asnctions reduced or completely removed. They are WAY TOO HIGH and are punishing the wrong people NOW !!
Fae Danner January 07, 2013 at 07:54 PM
You are absolutely correct; however, I still don't understand why the NCAA had anything to say about the situation. Why did the courts allow them to interfere? I don't expect you to have that answer. I don't care if they get sued and I, certainly, believe their mandates should be voided.
Ben January 07, 2013 at 09:10 PM
They should sue the NCAA. I always questioned why a organization based on academics is punishing for something that it really has no jurisdictions on? It was a federal crime that happened and how does NCAA get involved? It is amazing when a academic fault happens and in this case look at North Carolina. Not a word heard on it about them passing athletes without taking the class. The NCAA is a joke and should be smacked around.


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