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Gov. Corbett Announces Antitrust Lawsuit Against NCAA: 'This is the Right Thing to Do'

by on January 02, 2013 6:00 AM

Updated at 12:06 p.m.

Gov. Tom Corbett announced an antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA, in which he will ask the court to throw out all of the sanctions levied against Penn State and its football program.

Flanked by dozens of local State College business owners, former Penn State athletes and Penn State students, Corbett said he is suing the NCAA because the trade association overstepped its bylaws when "a small group of folks went alone on this." The actions taken by the NCAA in handing down unprecedented penalties will be felt for years if action is not taken to overturn them, 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. 

Penn State President Rodney Erickson and the Penn State Board of Trustees were alerted to the lawsuit, Corbett said, though they were not invited to join it. The board is expected to release its own statement following the governor's announcement. 

Attorney General-elect Kathleen Kane is only two weeks away from being sworn in to office. During her campaign, she pledged to investigate the office of the governor and its handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal and subsequent fallout.

Corbett has taken heat from many Penn State alums for his handling of the Sandusky case while he served as Attorney General and for his role last November when university trustees voted to fire longtime football coach Joe Paterno.

In July, when the sanctions were announced, Corbett said in a prepared statement that "part of that corrective process is to accept the serious penalties imposed by the NCAA on Penn State University and its football program." Corbett said Wednesday he waited until now to file suit because he didn't want to interfere with football season. Last July, in the same prepared statement, he alluded that Penn State is about more than just football.

"We're not going to get into the politics of this," Corbett said. "I believe this is the right thing to do." 

"Why now? Why wait until today to file this suit," Corbett said. The process took months for several reasons, Corbett said. One was that he did not want to imitate the NCAA, by "carelessly rushing in." He also did not want to detract from the accomplishments of head coach Bill O'Brien and the football team. 

"After months of research and deliberation, as well as discussions with alumni, students, faculty, business owners and elected officials, [Corbett] concluded that the NCAA's sanctions were "overreaching and unlawful." 

Corbett said the NCAA left Penn State with no other choice and instead bullied and threatened the new university president into accepting the sanctions, lest the university be left with the death penalty. 

The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday in the U.S. Middle District Court in Harrisburg, and Corbett said while Attorney General Linda Kelly's office was asked to look at the document, they will not be handling the suit, as is procedure. The governor's office does not have an estimated cost of the suit. 

Details were not divulged during the press conference, but Jim Schultz, general counsel to the governor, said there was and will continue to be significant collateral damage to the football program, the university and the local economy if the sanctions are not overturned. 

Corbett will recommend to the board that the $60 million — imposed by the NCAA as a fine — still be spent on promoting the awareness of and combating child sexual abuse.

Earlier at 6 a.m.

Gov. Tom Corbett will announce and discuss the state of Pennsylvania's antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA over the sanctions it levied against Penn State at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Nittany Lion Inn, according to multiple reports. 

On Tuesday, Sports Illustrated confirmed the state is filing an antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA, though no more details were divulged. 

By Tuesday night, it had been confirmed by Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel that Corbett will hold a press conference Wednesday morning. Local television station WJAC-TV confirmed Penn State's Board of Trustees will meet via telephone conference prior to the press conference in order to be briefed on the lawsuit. 

Penn State spokesman Dave La Torre said on Tuesday that Penn State has no involvement in the suit. 

Penn State's sanctions, which were handed down on July 23 during an announcement by NCAA President Mark Emmert, include a four-year postseason ban, a loss of scholarships and a $60 million fine that will go toward victim relief programs. Additionally, all wins by the football team under former coach Joe Paterno between 1998-2011 were wiped from the record books.

Follow @SCNewsDesk, @StateCollegecom and reporter Laura Nichols (@LC_Nichols) for live coverage of the press conference.

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Laura Nichols is a news reporter and @LC_Nichols on Twitter.
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