Judge in Corman Lawsuit Criticizes NCAA, Elaborates on Landmark Case
Joe Paterno's wins were restored. The consent decree was voided. The sanctions were lifted. State Senator Jake Corman became Penn State's hero.
Lost in the storm of celebration following the NCAA's settlement with Corman was a second hero of sorts for supporters of the university: commonwealth court judge Anne Covey.
Now that the dust has settled, Covey is speaking out about the legal drama that played out over the course of many months, and she's taking the NCAA to task for what she views as unnecessary damages.
"Unfortunately, the NCAA sanctions hurt a lot of individuals and punished them when they were in no way a participant in any of the crimes that Sandusky committed," Covey says. "We have to remember at the forefront that this case was about the victims."
Covey was the judge who presided over Corman's high-profile lawsuit against the NCAA, in which the state senator battled to overturn the consent decree and keep the sanction fines in-state. Without Covey's rulings against the NCAA on pre-trial motions, Corman may have been hard-pressed to reach a settlement that overturned the consent decree.
Covey's first major ruling in favor of Corman came when she found the Endowment Act to be constitutional. That act was passed by the state legislature in an attempt to ensure that the $60 million fine levied against Penn State by the NCAA was spent in Pennsylvania. Covey, during a visit to State College on Thursday, explained that the review of the Endowment Act was simply a matter of constitutionality.
"I believe that we always have to stand by our constitution. The legislators passed the Endowment Act and we looked at the constitutionality of that act and upheld it," Covey says. "It’s also important to remember that an organization outside of Pennsylvania can’t come in and start dictating to Pennsylvania that they want the money to go outside just because they say so."
The NCAA attempted to argue that its actions against Penn State were legal under its organizational by-laws and constitution, Covey says.
"The consent decree itself said that it was dubious whether they had the authority to pose the sanctions," she says. "When that issue came before the court, it became a disputed factual issue, which is why the court held that there was going to be a hearing on the validity of the consent decree."
The case never went to trial, and so the consent decree's legality and validity was never officially determined in the eyes of the law.
"We never had that issue tried in front of the court, so from the court’s perspective, the validity of the consent decree is still in question," Covey says.
Setting aside the intricacies of the case, Covey was eager to talk about what she views as a compelling factor in the legal proceedings.
"That case means a lot of different things for a lot of different people. For myself, it was always about the victims," she says. "Throughout the case, I was forever mindful of the fact that we always needed to be aware of how the case started. It was with Victim One and his mother who were courageous enough to come forward and as a result of their courageous act, they probably saved the lives of many individuals."
Covey adds that in addition to Sandusky's abuse victims, many others were adversely affected by his actions. For example, she cites the football players who didn't go to college because Penn State lost dozens of scholarships. Covey says Penn State football players, coaches, and administrators "were basically told that all of their hard work and succeeding for excellence didn’t matter anymore."
Covey is currently campaigning for a spot on the Pennsylvania supreme court. She might garner support from the Penn State community due to her role in the Corman lawsuit. At the very least, she can count on Penn State football legend Franco Harris to be in her corner.
"I had the unique opportunity to meet with Franco Harris," Covey says. "I never met Joe Paterno unfortunately before his passing, but Franco told me an interesting story about him."
Covey recounts what Harris says was Paterno's mantra to his student-athletes, a short list of their three primary focuses: Family came first, education came second, and football came third.
"I thought it was very interesting that that was his mantra to his team, to always remember family, education, and then football," she says. "I’m thrilled to have Franco Harris’ support. My son is a big Steelers fan and was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet him."
As for the university and the scandal's future, Covey has no doubt that Penn State will fully regain its once sterling reputation.
"Penn State has always stood strong for what’s right and they’re continuing to hold their heads high and go forward to serve the public and the community," she says.
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