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NCAA: Penn State Did Not Have Gun to Head

by on May 19, 2014 9:28 AM

It what has turned into a two-part hearing in the Paterno family lawsuit against the NCAA and Penn State, attorneys made oral arguments regarding the claims the Paterno family made in its amended complaint for the case.

Discussion during the first portion of the hearing -- which started at 10 a.m. at the Centre County Courthouse before Potter County Judge John Leete, who is specially presiding over the case -- concentrated on the consent decree Penn State agreed to with the NCAA. The consent decree allowed the NCAA to slap harsh sanctions on the university in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal.

NCAA attorney Everett Johnson Jr. argued that the plaintiffs' claims the NCAA held a "gun to the head" of Penn State forcing the university to agree to the unprecedented sanctions is false and that Penn State simply had a choice between two undesirable options – sign the consent decree with provisions like a ban on bowl games or see the entire football program suspended.

"At the end of the day, it's just a game on a Saturday," says Johnson.

Joseph Loveland, one of the plaintiff's attorneys, later responded, "It's not just a football game on a Saturday morning."

Penn State attorney Daniel Booker also said it appears plaintiffs are dismissive of the university's position in the case and that there is a perception the NCAA is so powerful therefore the claims of Penn State are not taken seriously.

"The view the university's position should be ignored really flies in the face of what is now really two years of complying with the consent decree which in some important ways has made the university stronger," Booker says.

Booker acknowledged the consent decree was "harsh," but at the same time "it did resolve serious threatened litigation."

Penn State hired Louis Freeh, former FBI director, to investigate the scandal. After the Freeh Report was issued, which found significant wrongdoing on the part of the university, the NCAA leveled unprecedented sanctions against Penn State's football program. The sanctions included a reduction in football scholarships, a ban on bowl appearances, and the vacating of 111 wins under Paterno.

The court recessed around noon for 15 minutes. The second portion of the hearing is expected to focus on a subpoena the Paterno family wants to execute, but the NCAA and Penn State oppose.

The disputed proposed subpoena asks for a slew of documents from the Louis Freeh investigation regarding how Penn State handled the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal and how the NCAA reached the decision to issue unprecedented sanctions against the university.

The Paterno family is seeking the subpoena as part of a lawsuit against the NCAA and Penn State. In the suit, the family asks for damages related to the sanctions the NCAA leveled against Penn State's football program following the arrest Sandusky, who is now a convicted pedophile.

The pending subpoena targets the Pepper Hamilton law firm, the successor to Freeh's original law firm.

Sandusky was ultimately convicted on 45 counts of child sex abuse. He is serving a 30 to 60 year sentence in state prison.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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