• What: An association of more than 1,000 U.S. colleges and universities.
• Powers: The National Collegiate Athletic Association is a membership organization and receives its powers from member universities whose presidents and chancellors compose different governing entities.
• Structure: A 20-person executive committee, including the NCAA president and presidents of member institutions, oversees the NCAA and -- at the Division I level -- appoints a board of directors, also comprising university presidents. This board oversees, among other governing bodies, the NCAA legislative council responsible for NCAA bylaws. A committee on infractions works separately from these committees and investigates rule violations.
• Why the Penn State case was different: Rather than use the traditional investigative process of the committee on infractions, which can take years and would have offered the possibility of appeal, the executive committee ruled it could act to resolve core issues as part of Article 4.1.2. (e), bypassing the usual protocol.
• Legal history: The NCAA has been sued numerous times with varying results. Notably, the NCAA lost an antitrust case to the University of Oklahoma that led to universities being able to negotiate their own TV appearances. In 2009, former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon filed an antitrust lawsuit regarding the NCAA's use of images and likenesses of athletes that has yet to go to trial.
• Key legal fact: In 1961, the NCAA turned down the opportunity to apply for a federal antitrust exemption. The association believed its educational ties would shield it from possible antitrust issues.
Sources: NCAA Constitution and Brian Porto's "The Supreme Court and the NCAA"