Governor Corbett Accuses NCAA of Illegal Sanctions against Penn State

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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.’’


  • Robert Fitzgerald

    Hats off to you Governor! It is far past time for the Presidents and Chancellors of participating NCAA schools to reign in the NCAA. Not only were the Penn State sanctions illegal and outragous, they were a slap in the face to all the past players, alumni and current students who had absolutely nothing to do with this despicable act by a sick indivual. Nothing in the NCAA rule book allows them to do what they did. They are famous for over reacting and issuing differing sanctions for identical infractions without a word of explanation. Perhaps a blackmail charge agakinst Mr. Emmert should be considered here. Maybe it is just time to disband the NCAA and let the respective conferences police school conduct.

  • rcmodeler

    I am glad to see that he is going to pressure the NCAA and hopefully force them ot recind these stupid sanctions. They think they are some kind of god that can change history with a swipe of their hand. Penn State history has all those victories that the NCAA said are vacated. What, the alumni who have championship rings suddenly do not exist? I hope the courts back the Gov and that the NCAA is taken to task for attempting to be more than they really are which is a sanctioning body for athletics. And to fine them $60 Mil, what do they intend to do with that money, take some lavish vacations themselves?

  • Steev

    The National Cowardly A**holes Association is about to get punched back! I figured it would take a high level person to be able to fight back against these anti-Paterno Pieces of human filth. happy new year!

  • Dave

    way to waste taxpayers money on something Penn State officals overlooked anyway. So I guess the decrease in education is coming back to pay for this. Just a way for Gov Corbett to cover up his screw ups as State DA

  • JQP

    Can't believe anyone would be in favor of Corbett's lawsuit. Yes the students may not have been responsible or complicit BUT the powers that be put the program before doing the right thing. Most at a minimum had suspicions BUT none took real action because it may have hurt the program and ultimately cost the school and the program money and reputation. Think of how many children could have been protected had someone put doing the right thing before the program. Penn State as a school and as a whole should be ashamed and the NCAA did the right thing by sending a message that no school or no program is EVER above doing the right thing. Mr. Corbett sit down and take your medicine.

  • MIke F

    Corbett is a dope!! Perhaps he should have done something when this was all unfolding back when he was Attorney General. Now he is grandstanding for his re-election.

  • Marilyn

    Gov. Corbett is teaching our youth WRONG yet again. 1) Yes, it's ok to for an authoritiative figure to sexually abuse innocent people. #2) It's ok for university officials to cover up the abuse in the name of football. #3) It's also ok to question and disrespect the governing authority, the NCAA, when your punishment is received and you think it is unfair?? Seriously?

    Great move Governor. Were you involved in the scandal too? MANY officials at Penn State were. Great role models (NOT)! They exercised great leadership (NOT)! Great compassion (NOT)! Great justice (NOT)!!! That's a first class education!!!

    I have an idea. How about we ask Jerry Sandusky's victims what they think. OK? And let's them them sue the State of Pennsylvania for double the fine the college had to pay, if the majority of them don't think it's very "fair" of you to whine now…

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