Paterno family intends to appeal NCAA sanctions
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The family of late Penn State University football coach Joe Paterno notified the NCAA Friday of its intent to appeal major sanctions imposed on the university for the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal.
In a letter to NCAA President Mark A. Emmert, a copy of which was obtained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Paterno family lawyer Wick Sollers said Paterno's survivors and the estate will challenge the collegiate sports governing body's penalties announced last week and a consent decree entered into by Penn State.
Mr. Sollers said the NCAA "acted hastily and without any regard for due process" and the university's trustees chairwoman and the school's president ignored what the attorney described as deep flaws in the Freeh investigative report, upon which the sanctions are based.
"The estate undertakes this appeal to redress the enormous damage done to Penn State, the State College community, former, current and future student (s) and student athletes, Joe Paterno and certain others involved, as a result of the unprecedented actions taken by the NCAA," Mr. Sollers wrote.
He said the NCAA and Penn State's leadership, "by accepting and adopting the conclusions of the Freeh report, have maligned all of the above without soliciting contrary opinions or challenging a single finding of the Freeh report."
Friday's appeal notice drew a brief and chilly response from NCAA leadership. "The Penn State sanctions are not subject to appeal," said vice president of communications Bob Williams.
David La Torre, a Penn State spokesman, said the university had no comment.
A jury in June convicted Mr. Sandusky, 68, on 45 counts of sexual abuse of children. Some of the acts occurred on Penn State's campus.
A school-commissioned investigative report by former FBI director Louis J. Freeh and his firm found that Mr. Paterno and top campus administrators, including former President Graham Spanier, were involved in withholding from law enforcement for years allegations of child sex abuse by Mr. Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at Penn State. Mr. Spanier, who has not been charged, has denied any wrongdoing.
Almost two weeks after that report was released, the NCAA on July 23 imposed sanctions on the university, including a $60 million fine, a four-year ban from post season football play and a sharp reduction in football scholarships.
The NCAA also vacated all wins by Penn State's football team dating from 1998, effectively stripping Mr. Paterno of his status as the nation's winningest major college football coach.
Mr. Sollers said in his letter that the Freeh report was "incomplete, rife with unsupported opinions and unquestionably one-sided."
He noted that the NCAA and Penn State said extreme and immediate actions were necessary to show respect for the victims and to minimize the likelihood of similar conduct occurring again.
He said the family endorses those goals but added they cannot be achieved through "a truncated process that wrongly assigns blame by substituting opinion for fact."
Referring to Paterno, Mr. Sollers asserted that "to severely punish a university and its community and to condemn a great educator, philanthropist and coach without any public review or hearing is unfair on its face and a violation of NCAA guidelines."
The Paterno family wants to file its appeal in writing and requests an in-person, oral argument before the NCAA's infractions appeals committee, the executive committee, the Division I board of directors and/or other appropriate audiences within the NCAA, Mr. Sollers said.
First Published August 4, 2012 12:00 am