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PA Supreme Court Rejects NCAA Appeal, Clears Way for Trial

by on November 06, 2014 9:29 AM

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has rejected the National Collegiate Athletic Association's attempts to stop the lawsuit against it in commonwealth court from proceeding to trial.

State Senator Jake Corman and Treasurer Rob McCord filed a lawsuit in commonwealth court in 2013 in an attempt to force the NCAA to abide by the Endowment Act. The state legislature, led by Corman, passed the Endowment Act to keep the NCAA's $60 million fine against Penn State in Pennsylvania. The NCAA fired back with its own lawsuit in federal court, where it argues the Endowment Act is unconstitutional. 

In September, the NCAA offered to abide by the Endowment Act and asked to have the lawsuit filed by McCord and Corman dismissed. However, Commonwealth Court Judge Ann Covey rejected that motion, saying that the court needed to decide whether the consent decree is valid. Penn State signed the consent decree in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal, allowing the NCAA to impose the fine and numerous other sanctions.

Covey has set a January trial date to determine if the consent decree is a legally valid document.

The NCAA has made several attempts to prevent this from happening, including appealing Covey's September ruling to the state supreme court. The NCAA also requested the supreme court put Corman's lawsuit on hold until a decision was made on the appeal.

Supreme Court Judge Max Baer called the NCAA's requests "unwarranted" in a decision on Wednesday, rejecting their request to stop the case from going to trial over the consent decree.

"It appears to me that the Commonwealth Court’s action ... did not exceed the bounds of its jurisdiction," Baer wrote.

The NCAA has also requested an expedited decision on its lawsuit in federal court. Corman and McCord have argued in legal filings that this request is merely an attempt to go around the lawsuit at the state level, and the commonwealth court recently agreed.

Judge Covey filed an opinion on Friday, chastising the NCAA for its legal maneuvering and reaffirming her previous ruling that the Endowment Act is constitutional. 

"The NCAA's forum shopping by seeking a more favorable ruling from the Federal Court ... is behavior courts find deplorable," Covey wrote.

The NCAA has also recently come under fire for internal emails from 2012 between top NCAA officials released Wednesday. In one, former NCAA Vice President of Enforcement Julie Roe calls the threat of sanctions against Penn State "a bluff."

In another, NCAA Vice President of Academic and Membership Affairs Kevin Lennon writes that the NCAA was "banking on the fact (Penn State) is so embarrassed they will do anything." The emails also question if the NCAA had the authority to impose its sanctions.

In an official statement on Wednesday, Penn State called the contents of the emails "deeply disturbing" and says it's "considering our options." The NCAA also released a statement saying the emails were "selectively released" and are misleading.

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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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