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NCAA Wants Clemens Removed From Paterno Lawsuit

by on May 01, 2015 9:35 AM

The National Collegiate Athletic Association is going on the offensive.

In new court documents filed Thursday, the NCAA begins a new plan of attack in the lawsuit filed by the estate of former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno. The athletic organization is trying to have one of the Paterno estate's co-plaintiffs removed from the case: former Penn State trustee Al Clemens.

Clemens -- alongside the Paterno estate and former assistant football coaches Jay Paterno and William Kenney -- is one of the few plaintiffs who is still suing the NCAA. When the lawyers for the Paterno estate first filed the suit in 2013, they were joined by 20 other plaintiffs including university trustees, faculty members and former football players -- but the court whittled that list down to the current group of four.

And if the NCAA gets its way, that listed will be narrowed down even more. 

Clemens was a member of the Penn State Board of Trustees during the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, and was involved with the decision to accept the NCAA's consent decree. The consent decree -- which was repealed in January as a result of a different lawsuit from state legislators -- allowed the NCAA to impose harsh sanctions against Penn State as punishment for the scandal.

The NCAA claims that because Penn State and the board of trustees "repeatedly confirmed its commitment to performing its obligations under the consent decree," Clemens does not have legal standing to sue the NCAA. Attorneys for the athletic organization claim this argument is backed up by several different legal principles.

"The Board of Trustees, and Plaintiff Clemens in particular, expressed their support for President Erickson's decision to execute the Consent Decree," the NCAA's filing reads.

However, Clemens also repeatedly claimed that he and the rest of the board of trustees had made mistakes in their handling of the Sandusky scandal, which was a major factor in his decision to resign from the board last March.

The Paterno estate filed its lawsuit nearly two years before the consent decree was lifted. How the lifting of the consent decree will impact the lawsuit has been discussed behind closed doors, but details of those conversations have not been made public.

The Paterno estate alleges the NCAA made defamatory statements about Joe Paterno in the wake of the Sandusky scandal and decreased the value of his estate. Jay Paterno and Kenney allege that the NCAA's actions after the scandal damaged their reputations and made it more difficult to find work. All plaintiffs are seeking monetary damages.

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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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