Lawmakers move to keep PSU penalty money in Pa.
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HARRISBURG -- As Penn State University begins paying its $60 million NCAA fine in the child sex abuse case, a proposal Thursday to restrict proceeds to Pennsylvania programs won support from Gov. Tom Corbett and Senate leaders.
Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said Thursday he would introduce legislation limiting payments from the fine to organizations in Pennsylvania. Penn State agreed in July to a set of NCAA sanctions that included paying $60 million -- approximately one year's gross football revenue, the agreement said -- into an endowment for programs preventing child sex abuse or assisting abuse victims.
The university announced Dec. 20 it had set aside the first $12 million installment while an NCAA task force establishes the endowment.
Mr. Corman, a Penn State graduate whose district includes the main university campus, told reporters he believes the money should benefit state residents because it comes from a Pennsylvania public university. He said he had written to the national collegiate athletics governing body to express that view, but had been told the NCAA would commit only 25 percent of proceeds to Pennsylvania organizations.
The consent decree states that proceeds from the fine cannot be used for programs at Penn State.
"When I spoke to the NCAA, they believed this was a national problem and therefore it should have a national response," Mr. Corman said. "My reaction is I don't necessarily disagree with that, and if the NCAA wants to match this fine, or if they want to raise money nationally, they should feel free to do that. But why they're taking money out of Pennsylvania and putting it toward a program in California I think is an indefensible position."
The proposal received prompt support from Mr. Corbett, a Republican, who released a statement criticizing the sanctions.
"The NCAA, as an athletic trade association, overstepped its authority by forcing Penn State to endure harsh, unjustified and unprecedented punishment," the governor said. "To the extent that Sen. Corman's legislation deals with financial sanctions, it is easy for me to give my support for that money to go to Pennsylvania organizations."
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, and Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, said they would support the measure, and the chief of staff to Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, said Mr. Scarnati hopes to have the legislation move quickly in the new year.
In the House, Steve Miskin, a spokesman for the Republican caucus, said members support keeping the money in Pennsylvania. House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Oakmont, urged the NCAA in a September letter to use the money solely for child programs and organizations in the state.
Mr. Corman said his proposal is consistent with the penalties in the consent decree signed by the presidents of the NCAA and Penn State. He said the decree requires the parties to follow state law, and so by changing the law, the Legislature can ensure that payments from the endowment remain in Pennsylvania.
The NCAA sanctions also include a four-year ban on postseason play, a four-year reduction in the number of players on scholarship and the canceling of all Penn State football wins from 1998 to 2011.
Mr. Corman said he plans to file a lawsuit, likely next week, to prevent the NCAA from disbursing fine money outside Pennsylvania before his proposal can be put into effect.
David La Torre, a Penn State spokesman, said the university had not seen the proposal and would not comment. A spokeswoman for the NCAA responded to a request for comment about the legislation and lawsuit by directing a reporter to a description of the timeline for creating the endowment and list of members of the task force that will oversee it.
In November, the Pennsylvania delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives wrote to the NCAA asking that it use the full endowment for Pennsylvania programs and organizations preventing child sex abuse and assisting victims.
First Published December 28, 2012 12:00 am