Gov. Tom Corbett fumbled his first play of 2013 with a puzzling lawsuit challenging the NCAA for sanctions it imposed on Penn State University over the child sexual abuse scandal that sent former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky to prison.
In July, a month after Sandusky's conviction, Penn State officials agreed to a $60 million fine, a prohibition against post-season play for four years and the erasure of victories from 1998 to 2011. The NCAA, the governing body for college athletics, had offered that deal, which allowed Penn State to avoid the so-called "death penalty" -- suspension of its football program.
When the sanctions were announced last summer, Mr. Corbett said "part of that corrective process is to accept the serious penalties." So why is he now asking federal court to throw them out?
Gov. Corbett gave two reasons for his delayed response -- he said he wanted to carefully study the matter before filing the lawsuit and he didn't want to interfere during the football season.
The bigger question is why challenge it at all?
The governor said the NCAA is "a trade association" that never articulated which NCAA rules Penn State violated and had no authority in the scandal, which "was clearly being handled by the justice system."
We couldn't disagree more. The NCAA has a responsibility to improve the attitudes and practices associated with collegiate sports. It can't do that if it ignores what happens off the field. In this case, the NCAA committed itself well by acting decisively and recognizing that the culture of football that permeated Penn State's leadership contributed to allowing Sandusky's heinous acts to go undetected for more than a decade.
Despite the investigation and successful prosecution that started during Mr. Corbett's term as state attorney general, we can't applaud the action he took Wednesday. Because he orchestrated his announcement in State College before a Penn State backdrop of alumni, students, former athletes and politicians, it was clear that the governor was putting on a show for Penn State fans.
His complaint is belated, bizarre and self-serving.
First Published January 4, 2013 12:00 AM