Pa. Governor Sues NCAA Over Penn State Sanctions

Pennsylvania's governor says he is suing the National Collegiate Athletics Association in federal court over harsh sanctions imposed on Penn State. Those sanctions followed a child sexual abuse scandal involving Jerry Sandusky, an ex-assistant football coach. The penalties included millions in fines, a four-year bowl ban and the forfeiture of 112 wins by its football team and were signed off on by the university. But Gov. Tom Corbett says the penalties are unfair and filed an anti-trust suit.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. The governor of Pennsylvania is stepping in on behalf of Penn State University. He's filing an antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA for its sanctions against Penn State. The NCAA had imposed harsh penalties in response to the child sexual abuse case involving the school's former assistant football coach. We'll hear more now from NPR's Tom Goldman.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: The NCAA didn't impose the so-called death penalty which would have shut down the storied Penn State football program for several years, but the association did levy what it called unprecedented sanctions, including a $60 million fine and a four-year bowl game ban for the football team. Today, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett said the sanctions did nothing to punish Jerry Sandusky, who's serving a prison sentence, or others who've been criminally charged.

GOVERNOR TOM CORBETT: Rather, they punished the past, the present and the future students, current and former student athletes, local businesses and the citizens of Pennsylvania.

GOLDMAN: Corbett says the sanctions already have had a negative impact since the football program is such a powerful economic driver. Still, there was football in State College this season and while attendance was down, nearly 97,000 fans showed up, on average, at home games. That was fifth highest in division I college football. The lawsuit filed in federal court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, asks the court to throw out all the sanctions.

The NCAA said in a statement, it is disappointed by Corbett's action, adding, the lawsuit is without merit and a setback to Penn State's efforts to move forward after it accepted the consequences of the Sandusky scandal. Today's announcement prompted questions about timing. The sanctions were handed down last July. Corbett gave two reasons.

CORBETT: First, I wanted to thoroughly research the issue to make sure that we were on solid legal footing. Two, I didn't want to file during the football season.

GOLDMAN: Several years ago, when Corbett was attorney general, he was blamed for dragging his feet on the Sandusky investigation. Critics say with today's announcement, Corbett, who's up for reelection next year, is trying to help his image. When asked about this, Corbett said the lawsuit is not about politics, but about the right thing to do. Tom Goldman, NPR News.

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