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Paterno Estate, NCAA 'at an Impasse' As Court Date Arrives

by on February 06, 2015 6:00 AM

With a courthouse confrontation set for Friday morning, the National Collegiate Athletic Association has declared it is “at an impasse” with the estate of the late Joe Paterno.

Representatives from the NCAA are scheduled to come face-to-face with the parties suing the athletic organization in Centre County court at 10 a.m. for oral arguments before Judge John Leete of Potter County.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit – which includes former Penn State assistant football coaches Jay Paterno and William Kenney, Penn State Trustee Al Clemens and the estate of former head football coach Joe Paterno – are expected to duke it out with the NCAA over a number of contentious issues.

The "impasse" declared by the NCAA refers to the plaintiffs’ attempts to subpoena five university presidents from across the country who served on the NCAA’s executive board in 2012. Those presidents were involved in the NCAA's decision to impose unprecedented sanctions on Penn State in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.  Those sanctions have since been lifted as a result of the settlement in a different lawsuit between Pennsylvania State Sen. Jake Corman and the NCAA.

The NCAA argues that the plaintiffs only want to depose the five university presidents in question –  Stan Albrecht of Utah State, William Harvey of Hampton University, Nathan Hatch of Wake Forest University, Harris Pastides of South Carolina University and Lou Anna Simon of Michigan State University – in order to support a breach of contract claim already dismissed by the court.

“The Estate of Joseph Paterno’s request to subpoena and disrupt the daily responsibilities of five non-party, sitting university presidents… for which discovery is attainable through less burdensome and more appropriate means, is premature and unreasonable,” a Feb. 4 court filing from NCAA attorneys reads.

The NCAA wants Judge Ruest to prevent the plaintiffs from serving their subpoenas. By contrast, the Paterno Estate has accused the NCAA of purposefully impeding attempts to gather information relevant to the case. The plaintiffs want the court to overturn the NCAA’s objections and grant permission to serve the subpoenas.

The plaintiffs filed their lawsuit against the NCAA in May 2013, alleging that NCAA overstepped its authority in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, causing financial and emotional harm to the various plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs also allege that Kenney’s and Paterno’s career prospects were damaged by the fallout of the Sandusky scandal, claiming that the NCAA unjustly implied they were involved in an alleged cover-up. The lawsuit also argues that the NCAA’s actions decreased the value of the Paterno estate.

Penn State was added as a defendant to the lawsuit by the court in February 2014.

The NCAA has roundly rejected the allegations in the lawsuit as unfounded and inaccurate. Since the initial 2013 filing, both sides of the fight have furiously filed a slew of court documents in an ongoing legal battle.

The Paterno side of the lawsuit has also fought bitterly for the ability to publicly release documents obtained from the NCAA. A protective order from the judge currently prevents the plaintiff’s from releasing any information. The NCAA has strongly opposed that request, arguing the plaintiffs want to fight their lawsuit in the press.

The plaintiffs have also attacked the consent decree signed by the NCAA and Penn State in the wake of the Sandusky scandal, which allowed the NCAA to impose its sanctions.

The consent decree was lifted along with the sanctions as a result of the Corman-NCAA lawsuit settlement in January. It is not clear how that will impact the Paterno Estate lawsuit.


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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for 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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