Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett called the NCAA’s sanctions against Penn State an “unprecedented and aggressive discipline” in a federal complaint Corbett filed in January in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, but Thursday a judge dismissed the antitrust lawsuit, calling the legal action an errant “Hail Mary pass.”
Corbett sought to overturn the sanctions the non-governmental agency levied against Penn State last summer in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal. The sanctions included a $60 million fine, a four-year postseason and bowl ban and loss of scholarships. Sandusky, the former PSU football coach under the late Joe Paterno, is serving a minimum 30-year prison sentence after a jury found him guilty on 45 counts of sex abuse.
“The fact that the alleged actions of those involved in the tragic events at Penn State were criminal, and that no violations of NCAA rules had been identified, would not dissuade Dr. (Mark) Emmert from seizing upon the international publicity that the Penn State matter had instantly attracted to make a show of unprecedented and aggressive discipline that he, with the input of a handful of university presidents and chancellors, would determine and impose,” read the complaint. “Once and for all, the NCAA would shed the reputation of being soft on discipline, even if doing so meant ignoring the existing NCAA rules and processes that its member institutions justifiably expected and to which they were entitled.”
The complaint made the argument that the sanctions would have a “crippling” financial effect on the university and the surrounding community.
But U.S. Middle District Judge Yvette Kane ruled to dismiss the case, and said that she could not “find any factual allegations supporting (Corbett’s) allegation of ‘concerted action’ that might nudge its conspiracy claim into ‘plausible’ territory.”
Kane also said in her ruling that even if the sanctions prevent the university from landing elite football players, that does not make it an antitrust matter.
“The fact that Penn State will offer fewer scholarships over a period of four years does not plausibly support its allegation that the reduction of scholarships at Penn State will result in a market-wide anticompetitive effect, such that the ‘nation’s top scholastic football players’ would be unable to obtain a scholarship in the nationwide market for Division I football players,” Kane wrote.
The Paterno family filed a lawsuit last week against the NCAA seeking to reverse the sanctions as well. Paterno died in January of 2012.
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