The Post-Gazette is incorrect in stating that “the question whether the NCAA had the authority to sanction Penn State University over the sexual abuse scandal” has been settled (“Valid Sanctions,” April 11 editorial). In Gov. Tom Corbett’s lawsuit opposing the sanctions, the court emphasized that the dismissal of the suit was based solely on the weakness of the antitrust claims. The NCAA’s jurisdiction and the fairness of the sanctions were not decided because “they are not antitrust questions.”
In a previous letter (“Baseless Sanctions,” Jan. 12, 2013), I argued that the NCAA had no authority to impose the sanctions and that the consent decree was a voidable contract because it was agreed to under duress. So I am pleased that Commonwealth Court in the Jake Corman lawsuit has now brought attention to the jurisdiction issue. (On the other hand, raising this issue and requiring Penn State to be made a party seem inconsistent with the questions raised in that suit.)
If Penn State does become a party, the school’s legal position will be interesting. Penn State could, by defending the sanctions, flagellate itself (in an effort to shield its interim president and board, who caved to NCAA pressure), or it could belatedly man up and assert that the NCAA lacked jurisdiction and expose the coercion (viz., the death penalty threat) that led to acceptance of the consent decree. But note that such a bold stance would in itself be a violation of the consent decree, because in the decree Penn State waived the right to challenge its validity in court. Delightfully convoluted legal arguments are therefore possibilities.
It is not clear why the Post-Gazette believes that the issue of the NCAA exceeding its authority and the unjust imposition of hardship on Penn State are things better left unscrutinized.