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No Ruling After Attorneys Battle Over Gov. Corbett’s Lawsuit

by Laura Nichols

HARRISBURG – The status of Gov. Tom Corbett’s lawsuit remains unknown after two hours of arguments Monday. Federal Judge Yvette Kane said she expects to issue a ruling that says whether the antitrust lawsuit will stay or be tossed in the coming weeks.

Kane said she feels the parties are “a stadium apart” in their assessment of how Penn State’s sanctions affect the university, the Centre County community and the state of Pennsylvania.

Four attorneys represented the plaintiff, Gov. Corbett and the state of Pennsylvania, and four attorneys represented the defendant, the NCAA. The NCAA argued first, armed with a PowerPoint presentation in an effort to bolster its argument that Corbett’s lawsuit should be thrown out.

The defense argued that Corbett’s allegations are unfounded because Penn State’s market value did not decrease when Penn State President Rodney Erickson signed the Consent Decree in July. Penn State is still competing in major markets including post-secondary education, recruiting Division I football players and selling Penn State apparel, the NCAA said, who called Corbett’s allegations “absurd and speculative.”

The NCAA said they believe the suit should be tossed because it is an antitrust lawsuit, yet Corbett said he wants the sanctions reversed on the basis that the NCAA ignored its own rules to levy the sanctions against Penn State, something that the NCAA said does not constitute an antitrust law.

Commonwealth attorneys fired back, saying that Gov. Corbett filed the suit because he is representing the citizens of the state who who have amassed “antitrust injuries” because of the sanctions.

Jim Schultz, general counsel to the Commonwealth, said the facts in the case are “unique,” and that it is “important to separate this from a typical enforcement case.”

Schultz said the NCAA did not base the Consent Decree on rules, but rather general principles in its bylaws, such as ethical conduct and honesty and sportsmanship to enforce the sanctions. Schultz said the NCAA could have written a rule, had they wanted to, on how to handle criminal activity.

By 4 p.m., after two hours of arguments and contradictory arguments from the parties, Kane said she will issue a ruling in the coming weeks.

Penn State’s sanctions include a significant loss of scholarships and a four-year postseason ban for the football team, all wins between 1998-2011 under former head football coach Joe Paterno vacated and a $60 million fine.

Schultz said the $60 million fine, which is to go toward victims of sexual abuse, should stay within the state.

Penn State is not a party to Corbett’s lawsuit and the governor was not present at the hearing.

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