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Paterno Family Lawsuit Ignites Interest in Some, Yawns From Others

by on May 31, 2013 6:00 AM

News of the Paterno family's lawsuit against the NCAA quickly reverberated across Penn State and State College community.

Some people are excited about the idea of holding the NCAA's feet to the fire. But others we spoke to weren't very interested.

"I just don't care ... haven't read [the lawsuit] or seen any of the interviews" says Mike Werstuik, a Penn State grad.

Mike Evans, another PSU grad, says he's glad to see the Paterno family and the other plaintiffs take action. But Evans would have like to see the Penn State Board of Trustees take more control of the situation back in 2011. 

"It's about time someone stands up for this great university. Most on the board of trustees only looked out for their own image, not Penn State's," Evans said.

He travels quite a bit for work. Often, people in other cities will notice a Penn State decal he's sporting and ask about the ongoing controversy. 

Evans thinks that most people only hear what the 'mainstream media' is reporting – for instance, the Paterno report is not widely known around the country, but the Freeh report is.

"I think it's a good thing that there are still people who haven't forgotten and are interested in finding out the truth," Evans said. 

Bridget Simpson lives in Montreal, but grew up in State College. She's attending classes this summer at Penn State and says she hasn't paid too much attention to the news, largely because at this point, she's heard enough. 

"I don't really follow it anymore. I think it's a lack of interest," Simpson said. "I've already heard a lot about football growing up here."

The lawsuit was filed in Centre County Court Thursday. A total of 21 plaintiffs are involved, including the Paternos, several university trustees, faculty members and former football players.

They're suing the NCAA for breach of contract, intentional interference with contractual relations, civil conspiracy, defamation and commercial disparagement. They are asking a judge to void the consent decree which was signed by Penn State President Rodney Erickson, agreeing to harsh sanctions imposed by the NCAA. The plaintiffs are also seeking damages and compensation.

Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship (PS4RS) has been highly critical of Penn State's leaders. The group says the lawsuit would not have been necessary had the board of trustees taken a different course of action 18 months ago. 

In a statement, PS4RS says, "Make no mistake: We would not be in this position today if the Penn State Board of Trustees had the decency to demand due process and real truth in understanding the Sandusky scandal as far back as November 2011. There has been much criticism of the NCAA for the baseless and overreaching sanctions they levied on Penn State nearly a year ago.

"PS4RS hopes the ultimate outcome of today's courageous action is the uncovering of the real truths surrounding the Sandusky scandal, and knowledge that will truly help protect the children of Pennsylvania. To date, the Trustees' blind acceptance of the Freeh procedure and report has been nothing but harmful to the State College community, alumni, faculty, students, and, most importantly, to the children."

As of Friday morning, no reaction has come from the NCAA despite repeated requests for comment. Attorneys representing the plaintiffs said they have not heard from the NCAA, either. 



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