Governor Tom Corbett said he is suing the NCAA on behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania over sanctions given to Penn State's football program in the wake of a child sexual abuse scandal.
Corbett, the former state attorney general, made the announcement Wednesday at a press conference at the Nittany Lion Inn on Penn State's campus. The anti-trust lawsuit is being filed in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg, the state capital.
He called the sanctions unlawful and overreaching and said they were an "attack" on students and the economy of the Commonwealth.
In July, the NCAA issued unprecedented penalties, including a four-year postseason ban, a $60 million fine, 40 scholarship reductions and the requirement that the university to vacate all wins from 1998 to 2011. Rather than conducting an investigation, the NCAA relied on the report penned by former FBI director Louis Freeh, who concluded that senior Penn State leaders did not handle allegations against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky appropriately and could have stopped Sandusky from sexually abusing young boys.
The move has been criticized because NCAA President Mark Emmert bypassed typical investigative protocols to punish the university. Emmert has since defended issuing the sanctions, reiterating that there was a loss of institutional control at Penn State and the NCAA needed to act. The school agreed to the sanctions are meeting with the NCAA in the summer.
Sandusky, 68, was convicted of 45 counts of child sexual abuse in June. He was sentenced to 30 to 60 years behind bars. Sandusky has maintained his innocence and has begun the process of appealing his case.
Corbett said he took the last few months to take his time researching. He did not want to file during the football season to take away the team's momentum. The Nittany Lions finished a surprisingly good 8-4.
Corbett says Penn State does have a moral responsibility to the victims but also said, the NCAA has no authority to sanction the team. He says it is a criminal matter that should be handled in court.
A key point in the Pennsylvania lawsuit, which was crafted without the involvement of Penn State, is expected to be how the $60 million fine is spent. The state would like it sent back to Pennsylvania. The NCAA has previously said that a quarter of it would be funnelled back to the state.
State and congressional lawmakers from Pennsylvania have objected to using the Penn State fine to finance activities in other states. Penn State has already made the first $12 million payment. An NCAA task force is deciding how it should be spent.
NCAA spokesman Bob Williams told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday night -- when the governor's office first announced its intention to sue -- that the association does not comment on a lawsuit that has not yet been filed or that it has not yet seen.
The Sandusky scandal resulted in the firing last November of iconic Penn State coach Joe Paterno. He died from cancer two months later. On Wednesday morning after the suit was announced, the Paterno family released a statement:
"As we have not yet had an opportunity to review the lawsuit filed by Governor Corbett today, we cannot comment on the specifics of the litigation. What we do know, however, is that this matter is far from closed. The fact that Governor Corbett now realizes, as do many others, that there was an inexcusable rush to judgment is encouraging.
"Joe Paterno's only guidance to us was to seek the truth. Consequently, last July when the Freeh report was released and the subsequent unprecedented and unjustified actions were taken by the Penn State University Board and the NCAA, we stated that we would engage a team of experts to conduct a careful and thoughtful review of the Freeh inquiry and the actions of the Board and the Administration. That process is nearing completion. We expect to release the analysis of the experts in the near future. At that time we will address all of the issues of the past year in a comprehensive manner."
Republican U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent called the idea of a quarter of the money being spent in the state an "unacceptable and unsatisfactory" response by the NCAA to a request from the state's U.S. House delegation that the whole $60 million be distributed to causes within the state.
Last week, state Sen. Jake Corman, a Republican whose district includes Penn State's main campus, said he plans to seek court action barring any of the first $12 million from being released to groups outside the state.