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Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Brings Anti-Trust Suit Against NCAA

Governor Corbett seeks to have all sanctions imposed against Penn State vacated

Patrick Smith

'The NCAA and its president, Mark Emmert, seized upon the opportunity for publicity on the backs of the citizens of the Commonwealth."

- Thomas W. Corbett, Governor

"They went outside the rules and attacked Penn State. The NCAA didn't have any business in imposing these sanctions."

- James D. Schultz, General Counsel

As Dan Vecellio discussed yesterday and Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel reported, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett announced at a news conference this morning that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will file a federal anti-trust lawsuit against the NCAA. Noting that the "citizens and businesses of Pennsylvania have been harmed" and that the NCAA is a trade association that failed to follow their own rules and bylaws, Corbett stated that the suit is intended to vacate all sanctions against the university and have the Consent Decree signed by the university declared unlawful and non-binding.

In his prepared remarks, Governor Corbett praised the university's response to the Jerry Sandusky scandal, as well as the current and former students, student-athletes, faculty and staff that made Penn State 'the greatest learning institution in the world." He noted that the NCAA overreached by imposing "unprecedented" sanctions, which only served to punish innocent students and citizens rather than Jerry Sandusky, or "the others who have been criminally charged."

Perhaps the most interesting part of the morning came during the brief question session, where the governor was immediately asked about the university's seeming acceptance of the report compiled by former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, which placed blame on several members of the university's administration and alleged that they had conspired to conceal allegations against Sandusky dating back to 1998 in order to protect the university and its brand name football program. Although the governor stopped well short of discarding the Freeh Report entirely, he did note that the report is "incomplete," a major concession to Freeh's dedicated opposition.

Corbett also brushed off the notion that the suit is politically motivated, noting that this was "the right thing to do," and also noted that the timing of the lawsuit came because he did not want to file during the football season because it would take the spotlight away from Coach Bill O'Brien and the players that made the 2012 Penn State season so memorable. Make of that reasoning what you will.

Corbett yielded the floor to his closest legal advisor, General Counsel Jim Schultz, who encouraged everyone in attendance to read the complaint when it is released to the public after filing. Schultz gave a brief preview of what we should expect, mentioning that the suit seeks only injunctive relief only, meaning there will be no claim for monetary damages.

Of course, the most pressing question with regards to this suit is whether the Commonwealth has standing to challenge the NCAA at all. Corbett and Schultz both confirmed that Penn State is not involved in this suit (although both President Erickson and Board of Trustees Chair Karen Peetz were informed over the weekend), and Schultz claimed that the Commonwealth's standing will be premised on the theory of parens patriae. Under federal law, the theory allows a state's attorney general to file litigation on behalf of its citizens for violations of anti-trust law. In relevant part, 15 U.S.C. 15(c) states:

(a) Parens patriae

(1) Any attorney general of a State may bring a civil action in the name of such State, as parens patriae on behalf of natural persons residing in such State, in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the defendant, to secure monetary relief as provided in this section for injury sustained by such natural persons to their property by reason of any violation of sections 1 to 7 of this title.

Corbett has been making noise about the sanctions for several weeks now, particularly with regard to the fact that the $60 million fine levied by the NCAA was not being spent in state. Now, he is not only challenging the existence of the sanctions, but the authority of the NCAA itself.


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