NCAA sues to block state's Penn State fine law

Corbett signed measure to keep Sandusky case's fine in Pennsylvania

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HARRISBURG -- The NCAA asked a federal court Wednesday to block a new state law requiring that Penn State University's fine in the Sandusky case be spent in Pennsylvania.

After the university agreed in July to a set of sanctions -- including a $60 million fine to benefit programs related to child sexual abuse -- state lawmakers objected to the National Collegiate Athletic Association's plan to distribute proceeds of the fine nationwide. A proposal by Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to restrict payments to programs in Pennsylvania sailed through the Senate 50-0 and the House of Representatives 194-2, and was signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Tom Corbett.

The NCAA then filed suit, claiming the Pennsylvania law violates the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit argues the new requirement attempts to negate a contract between the NCAA and Penn State, disrupt interstate commerce and confiscate money intended to be spent on victims of child sexual abuse nationwide. The sanctions stem from the convictions of child sexual abuse of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

"State governments can't simply pass laws to rewrite private agreements and divert private money to their own coffers," Donald Remy, chief legal officer for the NCAA, said in a statement. "This is an important principle of federal constitutional law that affects not just the NCAA, but also any party seeking to do business with a state-related or private entity."

The lawsuit, which names Mr. Corbett and other officials, comes seven weeks after Mr. Corbett announced he would sue the NCAA over the Penn State sanctions. The governor said the sanctions -- which also include a four-year postseason ban, reductions in scholarships and the canceling of years of Penn State football wins -- were unlawful and would harm the state and its citizens.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Corbett said the governor's staff is reviewing the lawsuit.

"Governor Corbett supported Senator Corman's bill and signed it into law because he believes it is important to keep this money in Pennsylvania," spokeswoman Janet Kelley said in a statement. "He believes it makes sense and is the right thing to do."

Penn State has said it is committed to complying with its agreement with the NCAA on the sanctions, and a university spokesman said Wednesday he had no comment on the new lawsuit.

In addition to Mr. Corbett, the lawsuit names state Treasurer Rob McCord, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale and Mark Zimmer, chairman of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, all in their official capacities.

"Treasurer McCord intends vigorously to defend his statutory authority as custodian of the endowment fund and his responsibility to ensure its distributions are made in a manner directed by the Pennsylvania Legislature," said Gary Tuma, spokesman for Mr. McCord, in a statement.

The lawsuit received a sharp response from an alumni group that had objected to Penn State's acceptance of the NCAA sanctions.

"The NCAA has lost sight of the children, and really needs to get its priorities in check," said a statement released by Maribeth Schmidt, a spokeswoman for Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship. "The fines, if they are even deemed legal to be levied at all, should be used to put a copy of Jim Clemente's video into the hands of every single parent to learn how to identify the characteristics of child sexual predators."

Short of that, "this is a ridiculous sideshow that's horribly unbecoming to the parties involved," it read.

Mr. Clemente, a former FBI profiler, contributed to a 200-plus-page analysis released earlier this month on behalf of the family of late football coach Joe Paterno. The analysis challenged the Penn State-commissioned Freeh report and its findings that Paterno and other Penn State leaders took part in a cover-up of Sandusky's crimes.

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Karen Langley: klangley@post-gazette.com or 717-787-2141. Bill Schackner: bschackner@post-gazette.com.


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