Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett announces a federal anti-trust lawsuit against the NCAA over sanctions imposed against Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
The state of Pennsylvania took the field on behalf of battered Penn State on Wednesday, with Gov. Tom Corbett announcing a lawsuit against the NCAA over sanctions imposed on the university in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
"This was a criminal matter, not a violation of NCAA rules,” Corbett said at a press conference Wednesday to announce the lawsuit would be filed in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg, Pa., later in the day. "The NCAA didn't have any business in imposing these sanctions."
The university agreed in July to the sanctions, which included a $60 million fine that would be used nationally to finance child abuse prevention grants. The sanctions also included a four-year bowl game ban for the university's marquee football program, reduced football scholarships and the forfeiture of 112 wins but didn't include a suspension of the football program, the so-called death penalty.
"Penn State does have a moral responsibility to the victims and to the community, and it has accepted that responsibility and is working with the victims in the civil courts," Corbett said, standing in front of a group of business owners on Penn State's campus in College Park. "Penn State should continue to work with the victims of sexual abuse and an effort towards prevention, so we can assure that tragedies like this never happen again. With that said, though, the NCAA shouldn't have sanctioned Penn State. I believe and our suit contends that the NCAA has no authority and operated outside of their own bylaws with these sanctions they brought."
State and congressional lawmakers from Pennsylvania have objected to using the Penn State fine to finance activities in other states. Penn State has already made the first $12 million payment, and an NCAA task force is deciding how it should be spent.
In a statement issued after Corbett's announcement, Donald M. Remy, NCAA executive vice president and general counsel, said the governor was belatedly interceding in a matter that was well on its way to being resolved.
"We are disappointed by the governor's action today," Remy said. "Not only does this forthcoming lawsuit appear to be without merit, it is an affront to all of the victims in this tragedy -- lives that were destroyed by the criminal actions of Jerry Sandusky. While the innocence that was stolen can never be restored, Penn State has accepted the consequences for its role and the role of its employees and is moving forward. Today's announcement by the governor is a setback to the university's efforts."
Penn State also issued a statement saying that it "is not a party to the lawsuit and has not been involved in its preparation or filing."
The NCAA has previously indicated that at least a quarter of the $60 million would be spent in Pennsylvania, but that continues to be a sore point with some Pennsylvania lawmakers.
Republican Rep. Charlie Dent called the NCAA's response "unacceptable and unsatisfactory" to a request from the state's House delegation that the whole $60 million be distributed to causes within the state.
Last week, state Sen. Jake Corman, a Republican whose district includes Penn State's main campus, said he plans to seek court action barring any of the first $12 million from being released to groups outside the state.
In announcing the news conference, Corbett, a Republican, did not indicate whether his office coordinated its legal strategy with state Attorney General-elect Kathleen Kane, who is scheduled to be sworn in Jan. 15.
Kane, a Democrat, ran on a vow to investigate why it took state prosecutors nearly three years to charge Sandusky, an assistant under legendary football coach Joe Paterno. Corbett was the attorney general when that office took over the case in early 2009 and until he became governor in January 2011.
Sandusky, 68, was convicted in June on charges he sexually abused 10 boys, some on Penn State's campus. He's serving a 30- to 60-year state prison term.
Eight young men testified against him, describing a range of abuse they said went from grooming and manipulation to fondling, oral sex and anal rape when they were boys.
Sandusky did not testify at his trial but has maintained his innocence, acknowledging he showered with boys but insisting he never molested them.
NBC News' Tom Winter and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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