By Ben Present
Of the Legal Staff
The NCAA has filed a federal lawsuit against Governor Tom Corbett and the treasurer and auditor general of Pennsylvania over legislation aiming to keep the NCAA’s $60 million fine against Penn State, related to the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal, in the state of Pennsylvania.
In a 16-page complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, the NCAA said the legislation, sponsored by state Senator Jake Corman, R-Centre, violated the takings, contracts and commerce clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The NCAA asked the court to declare Senate Bill 187 – which Corbett signed into law Wednesday – unconstitutional and for an injunction against its enforcement.
The NCAA also asked for attorney fees and costs and other relief the court deems fitting.
The lawsuit also names Mark R. Zimmer, the chairman of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, as a defendant.
Corman was not a named defendant.
Represented by Thomas W. Scott of Killian & Gephart in Harrisburg, the NCAA alleges the General Assembly has attempted to negate a valid contract between the NCAA and Penn State to “disrupt interstate commerce by attempting to legislate where private parties spend their money, and to confiscate funds intended for the victims of child sexual abuse nationwide to be used solely for the benefit of Pennsylvania residents, at the direction of Pennsylvania officials.”
Corman has already filed a lawsuit against the NCAA asking the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania to block the NCAA from releasing any of the fine money, which came as just part of the unprecedented sanctions the organization levied against Penn State for its handling of sex-abuse allegations against Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at the university who was last year convicted on 45 of 48 counts of sexually abusing children. Corman’s action against the NCAA is in the midst of briefing, according to the docket.
After Corman’s lawsuit, the NCAA preliminarily agreed not to dole out any of the $12 million Penn State has already put into a fund to pay the fine.
On top of the fine, the NCAA hit the university with a four-year ban on postseason play, a drop-off in scholarships and the vacating of seasons’ worth of victories for the university's storied football program.
The Senate bill, now Act 1 of 2013, requires that a higher education institution hit with a fine of more than $10 million from an outside body must establish an endowment that would ensure the funds are distributed in the state of Pennsylvania. In Penn State’s case, the money would go to Pennsylvania organizations that benefit child victims of sexual abuse.
Meanwhile, Corbett has challenged the entirety of the NCAA’s sanctions, including the fine, in a separate lawsuit against the NCAA, but the governor agreed publicly to use the money for victims of sex abuse if he and the state were to prevail.