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NCAA Files Motion to Dismiss Gov. Corbett's Anti-Trust Lawsuit

by on February 07, 2013 6:33 PM

The NCAA does not want anyone – or the state of Pennsylvania – coming between it and the consent agreement with Penn State, which formally accepted the sanctions. 

Filed in Middle District court on Thursday, the NCAA filed a motion to dismiss Gov. Tom Corbett's case against the NCAA, which he filed on Jan. 2 in an effort to have the sanctions levied against Penn State in July overturned. 

According to the motion, the NCAA said that because Gov. Corbett is a member of Penn State's Board of Trustees, his lawsuit "seeks, under the guise of antitrust law, to overrule his fellow trustees and usurp the discretion that the legislature delegated to PSU.

"This lawsuit is an inappropriate attempt to drag the federal courts into an intra-state political dispute. The remedial measures that Penn State agreed to were controversial, and have elicited strong feelings on all sides. Some think they are too harsh, and some think they are too lenient. But none of those feelings have anything to do with the antitrust laws." 

Counsel for the NCAA argues that the case should be dismissed for four reasons:

  • The NCAA's regulation of college sports is subject to antitrust scrutiny only if it directly regulates economic activity, like television contracts or the salary of coaches.

According to the court document, any indirect economic effects on businesses resulting from the NCAA imposing major sanctions are not uncommon, and do not alter the analysis. Corbett argued in his lawsuit that the sanctions dealt to Penn State will negatively affect the economy of the entire state. 

  • The Complaint fails to state a claim because the ethical standards enforced by the NCAA are part of what makes college athletics unique and distinctive. 

Corbett called the sanctions 'unjust' and 'unprecedented.' 

  • The Complaint fails to allege harm to economic competition in the three (insufficiently pled) markets it identifies — for higher education, athletic apparel, and football recruits. The Complaint does not allege that lessened competition from Penn State has made it possible for other universities to raise tuition or the price of athletic apparel, or to reduce the number or quality of scholarships that they offer to student-athletes. Nor would such allegations be remotely plausible, given how large and robust these alleged nationwide markets would be. Plaintiff alleges only that PSU, a single competitor, might be athletically disadvantaged by the Consent Decree, but the antitrust laws protect competition, not competitors.
  • Plaintiff is not suing on behalf of anyone who has antitrust injury or standing to sue. PSU chose to compromise its differences with the NCAA by consent decree, and that choice was ratified by the appropriate decision-makers under Pennsylvania law.

This is the first legal action taken since Corbett filed the lawsuit in January, and no court dates have been set. 

Related coverage: 

NCAA motion to dismiss by

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