Paterno family announces lawsuit against NCAA


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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Representatives of Joe Paterno's family appeared on the NBC Sports Network show "Costas Tonight" Wednesday to announce the filing of a lawsuit on behalf of the Paterno family and several Penn State trustees, faculty and former coaches and players against the NCAA, according to NBC Sports vice president Adam Freifeld.

Paterno family lawyer Wick Sollers said on the show the lawsuit would redress the NCAA's adoption of the Freeh Report -- prepared under the direction of former FBI director Louis Freeh -- and the consent decree signed by Penn State.

Sollers added that the lawsuit will seek compensatory damages and a permanent injunction of the sanctions.

Family spokesman Dan McGinn said: "It's designed to try to correct the record here. We know that you can't undo all the damage that [has] been done. We know that this is going to be a fight for the long term.

"When I speak of the damage, it's not just to the Paterno family, the Paterno name; it is to Penn State, a great institution that has a great history and tradition in sports. It's to the alums there, the students, the faculty and the community.

"The NCAA wrecked enormous damage to this community, and this is just one way to get the record right."

In July, shortly after the release of the Freeh Report, the NCAA sanctioned Penn State for its role in the Jerry Sandusky scandal, banning the team from the postseason for four years, limiting scholarships, fining the school $60 million and removing all of Penn State's victories from 1998-2011. The latter punishment reduced Paterno's victory total from 409, the most in Division I-A football, to 298.

In February, the Paterno family, with the help of U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, Sollers, former FBI profiler Jim Clemente and sexual disorders expert Fred Berlin, released its Paterno report critiquing the Freeh Report, which concluded that Paterno contributed to a cover-up of Sandusky's child sexual abuse.

The Freeh Report also concluded former Penn State administrators Tim Curley, Gary Schultz and Graham Spanier had a role in the cover-up.

The Paterno report, however, concluded that Freeh's investigative team did not interview enough key people and relied too much on the email chains between Curley, Spanier and Schultz.

On Costas' show, Sollers and Thornburgh reiterated these viewpoints.

Penn State issued a statement that said, in part: "The [u]niversity is not a party to any lawsuit against the NCAA that may be filed by the Paterno family.

"Penn State remains committed to full compliance with the Consent Decree and the Athletics Integrity Agreement."

Michael Boni, the lawyer who represents Sandusky victim Aaron Fisher -- Fisher has publicly said he is Victim 1 from the Sandusky charges -- said it was "absurd" for the Paterno family to be filing a lawsuit.

"I think it's clear the Paterno estate is using the Freeh Report as a boogeyman, blaming it as though the Freeh Report is causing undue problems for the Paterno estate," Boni said.

"And they're not seeing, unfortunately, Joe Paterno is not a deity. He's a normal guy. He made a big mistake. It doesn't mean he's an evil guy. ... The estate should show some character, own up to the mistake he made and ask people to realize he's a complex person who did tremendous good and made a mistake."

The NCAA already faces a lawsuit with regards to Penn State, filed by the commonwealth in January, arguing that the NCAA skipped its usual protocol for punishment and inflicted damage on Pennsylvania citizens who benefit economically from Penn State football. A federal judge is supposed to make a decision within the coming weeks on whether to dismiss the lawsuit.

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Mark Dent: mdent@post-gazette.com or on Twitter @mdent05. First Published May 30, 2013 4:00 AM


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