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NCAA Argues Corman, McCord Have No Basis to Challenge Consent Decree

by on November 13, 2014 2:05 PM

The National Collegiate Athletic Association is once again trying to avoid going to trial over the consent decree.

The consent decree has become a focus of a lawsuit State Senator Jake Corman and Treasurer Rob McCord filed against the NCAA in commonwealth court last year.

McCord has argued in court documents that Penn State entered into the consent decree while under duress. The NCAA argues that, because of the legal definition of "duress", that is not the case.

"It is black letter law in Pennsylvania that there can be no claim of duress when a party has an opportunity to consult with counsel before entering into a contract," Thursday's filing reads. "It is not even necessary that the party actually consults with counsel—so long as it could have done so."

Because Penn State consulted numerous attorneys before signing the consent decree, the NCAA argues it can not have signed the decree under duress. The NCAA says that Corman and McCord have not provided sufficient other claims against the consent decree, and have no basis to challenge its legality. The NCAA asks the court for a partial judgement in its favor.

Covey has ruled against the NCAA in the past, denying its previous attempts to avoid trial.

Penn State signed the consent decree with the NCAA in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case, allowing the athletic organization to impose a $60 million fine and other sanctions against the university.

Corman and McCord originally filed their lawsuit in an attempt to force the NCCA to spend its $60 million in fine money in Pennsylvania. The NCAA wants to distribute these funds nationally, and has filed a separate lawsuit in federal court towards this end. Both lawsuits revolve around the Endowment Act -- a law passed by the state legislature that would keep the NCAA's fine in Pennsylvania.

Commonwealth Court Judge Ann Covey has repeatedly upheld the constitutionality of the Endowment Act and has set a January trial to determine if the consent decree is a legally valid document.

The NCAA has tried repeatedly to avoid trial by requesting an expedited ruling in federal court, attempting to have Corman's lawsuit dismissed and by offering to abide by the consent decree. Now the athletic organization is trying a new tactic in court documents filed Thursday. It's arguing that "as a matter of law, the Consent Decree cannot be invalidated" based on the arguments made in court.

The NCAA has recently come under scrutiny after emails from the organization were released in other filings in Corman's lawsuit. Last week, internal NCAA emails from 2012 were released that refer to the threat of sanctions against Penn State as "a bluff." The emails also question the NCAA's authority to impose its sanctions. Penn State officials have said they are "considering [their] options" in response to these revelations.

On Wednesday, attorneys for Corman filed a document suggesting the NCAA was closely involved with the Louis Freeh investigation into the Sandusky scandal.

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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for StateCollege.com who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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