State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

Judge Throws Out Governor's Lawsuit Against NCAA

by on June 06, 2013 11:07 AM

Gov. Tom Corbett's effort to overturn the NCAA's 'unprecedented' sanctions against Penn State is sacked by a federal court judge. Corbett filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA in January, claiming the sanctions were hurting the state's economy. Federal judge Yvette Kane threw out the suit in Harrisburg Thursday morning, calling it a "Hail Mary" pass that did not qualify for antitrust standing.

The NCAA said it is "exceedingly pleased" Kane "found the allegations made by the governor to be implausible and outside the reach of federal antitrust law."

"Our hope is that this decision not only will end this case but also serve as a beginning of the end of the divide among those who, like Penn State, want to move forward to put the horror of the Sandusky crimes behind the university and those who want to prolong the fight and with it the pain for all involved," NCAA Chief Legal Officer Donald Remy said in a statement.

The legal battle grew from the sanctions imposed as a result of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. The NCAA hit Penn State with a $60 million fine, scholarship reductions and a four year bowl ban. The NCAA also vacated all victories under former head coach Joe Paterno between 1998-2011.

Corbett sued the NCAA on behalf of the state of Pennsylvania, seeking a full reversal of the sanctions Penn State President Rodney Erickson agreed to when he signed the consent decree with the NCAA and the Big Ten in July.

Kane says Corbett did not say anywhere in his complaint that NCAA President Mark Emmert sought to punish Penn State to achieve an unlawful purpose that would violate antitrust laws. The court cannot find any factual allegations that would support Corbett's claim that the NCAA's actions were "concerted" or planned to hurt Penn State, which means Corbett was unable to prove there was any conspiracy, Kane says. 

Whether Penn State faces a tougher time recruiting Division I players does not mean that Corbett's suit merits antitrust status, Kane says. 

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 anti-competitive 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 in her order. 

Corbett also argued that the sanctions will have a negative affect on Penn State's education because the $60 million fine combined with diminished football revenue will force a reduction in programs at the university. To say that the sanctions will have a nationwide affect on Penn State's competition in the post-secondary market "is simply not plausible," Kane says. She applies the same reasoning to Corbett's argument that the sanctions will force Penn State to raise tuition and cause other schools to lose the incentive to keep their tuition low. 

While Corbett's suit raised "important questions deserving of public debate," they are not antitrust questions, Kane says.

"In another forum the complaint's appeal to equity and common sense may win the day, but in the antitrust world these arguments fail to advance the ball," she wrote. 

Penn State is not a party to the governor's lawsuit. 

In late May, attorneys representing the NCAA argued in court that Corbett's allegations had to be considered unfounded because Penn State's market value did not decrease when Erickson signed the consent decree and because Penn State is still competing in significant areas. Those areas include Penn State's ability to attract students, recruit Division I football players and sell Penn State apparel.

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