By Jeff Gammage
The NCAA sued Gov. Corbett and other state officials Wednesday to stop them from keeping $60 million in Pennsylvania State University fines for use in the state.
The NCAA asserts that it is unconstitutional for a state government to pass a law that interferes with a contract, one that in this case arises from sanctions imposed on the school as a result of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual-abuse case. The suit was filed in federal court in Harrisburg hours after Corbett signed legislation that would direct the funds solely to Pennsylvania organizations and agencies that fight and treat child abuse.
"Gov. Corbett supported [the] bill and signed it into law because he believes it is important to keep this money in Pennsylvania," Janet Kelley, a Corbett spokeswoman, said Wednesday. "He believes it makes sense and is the right thing to do." The administration is reviewing the lawsuit, Kelley said.
"It's important that all of our members abide by the same rules to which they have voluntarily agreed," NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement. "If individual members or state lawmakers take it upon themselves to decide what sanctions are appropriate, simply to protect their home team, then collegiate sports would be dramatically altered."
A Penn State spokesman said the university had no comment.
The suit is an outgrowth of the scandal and specifically the Freeh report, which found that university leaders, including former president Graham B. Spanier and longtime football coach Joe Paterno, covered up critical facts related to Sandusky's abuses.
The Freeh report, the result of an inquiry conducted by former FBI Director Louis Freeh at the university's behest, became the basis for a consent decree between Penn State and the NCAA. Subsequent sanctions against the school included a $60 million fine to be paid over five years into an endowment for child-abuse programs.
The Pennsylvania legislation received final approval Wednesday in the House before being signed by the governor. Senate Bill 187, sponsored by Sen. Jake Corman (R., Centre), would place the fines in a trust administered by the state Treasury and appropriated to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. From there the money would go to child-advocacy programs.
The law, the NCAA suit said, represents an attempt "to negate a valid contract." It would "disrupt interstate commerce by attempting to legislate where private parties spend their money, [and] confiscate funds intended for the victims of child sexual abuse nationwide."
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