Paterno Family Reported to be Filing Lawsuit Against NCAA
By Steve Bauer
It appears we’re about to see another dramatic twist in the convoluted Jerry Sandusky scandal. An NBC Sports executive tells StateCollege.com that the Paterno family is filing a lawsuit against the NCAA.
That revelation comes as NBC Sports commentator Bob Costas takes another look at the controversial Freeh report.
“(The Freeh Report) will be the focus of Costas Tonight according to Adam Freifeld, a vice president of communications for NBC Sports. He says the show was taped Tuesday and will air Wednesday at 11 p.m. on NBCSN, following an NHL hockey playoff game.
Freifeld says the Costas show will include appearances by Wick Sollers, the Paterno family attorney; former U.S. Attorney General and Gov. of Pennsylvania, Dick Thornburgh; and Dan McGinn, a Paterno family spokesperson.
“They will be announcing a new lawsuit against the NCAA on behalf of the Paterno’s, several Penn State trustees, faculty, former players and coaches.” says Freifeld. That has not been confirmed by outside sources. Freifeld did not explain what the Paterno’s are asking for in their lawsuit.
StateCollege.com left messages for Wick Sollers and the Paterno family but those messages were not immediately returned.
In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, university spokesperson David La Torre says, “The university is not a party to any lawsuit against the NCAA that may be filed by the Paterno family. Penn State remains committed to full compliance with the consent decree and the athletics integrity agreement. We look forward to continuing to work with Sen. George Mitchell and recognize the important role that intercollegiate athletics provides for our student athletes and the wider university community.”
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett is already suing the NCAA. Corbett claims the sanctions will have a negative effect on the economy. The university is also not a part of that legal action.
Former FBI Director Louis Freeh, was hired by Penn State’s Board of Trustees after the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case exploded into the national consciousness. Sandusky, once the football team’s beloved defensive coordinator, was eventually convicted for sexually abusing several children.
In his report, Judge Freeh was highly critical of Penn State leaders. He blamed them for a conspiracy of silence. Freeh singled out the actions former president Graham Spanier, former athletic director Tim Curley, former administrator Gary Schultz and former head football coach Joe Paterno.
Spanier, Curley and Schultz were later charged with perjury, obstruction of justice and endangering the welfare of a child, in part because of information contained in the Freeh report.
Critics charge there was a rush to judgement and that important pieces of the puzzle were omitted. Spanier, Curley and Schultz were never interviewed by investigators involved in putting the report together.
Former governor Dick Thornburgh was part of a group hired by the Paternos to examine the Freeh report. “It’s incomplete. It’s full of inaccuracies,” Thornburgh said of the Freeh report, last February. “Much was overlooked, much was misrepresented and the fact is, it really isn’t deserving of the basis for action that was insinuated by the NCAA.”
The NCAA used the Freeh report to justify serious sanctions against Penn State. Those sanctions include a $60 million fine, scholarship reductions and a four year bowl ban.
After the Freeh report was made public, Bob Costas said it raised serious concerns about the university’s handling of the sex abuse scandal. However, after the Paterno family issued its own report, Costas said the issue deserved another look.
We’ll find out more about the Paterno lawsuit and what Costas has to say Wednesday night.
UPDATE (From Onward State Staff):
A video from the show tonight (see above) has been released and gives us a peek at what might be in store.
“The reality is that consent decree was imposed through coercion and threats behind the scenes and there was no ability for anyone to get redress,” said Paterno family attorney Wick Sollers in the excerpt. “There was no board approval, there was no transparency, and there was no consideration of this consent decree.”
The lawsuit, according to Sollers, will be against the NCAA and its President Mark Emmert in his personal and official capacity, along with Ed Ray, who was chair of the NCAA Executive Committee. The suit will be filed by not only the Paterno estate, but several trustees, former players, coaches, and faculty members.
“It’s designed to try to correct the record here,” said Paterno family spokesman Dan McGinn. “We know that you can’t undo all the damage that’s been done. We know that this is going to be a fight for the long term.”
“When I speak of the damage, it’s not just to the Paterno family, the Paterno name; it is to Penn State, a great institution that has a great history and tradition in sports. It’s to the alums there, the students, the faculty, and the community. The NCAA wreaked enormous damage to this community, and this is just one way to get the record right.”
The NCAA, which claims it has not seen the lawsuit yet, is maintaining the company line.
“We remain committed to working with Penn State toward the continued successful completion of our voluntary agreement with the University and to working with Senator George Mitchell in assisting that process,” NCAA’s chief legal officer, Donald Remy, said in a statement. “Despite our request, the Paterno family has not shared any information about its planned legal action. Therefore we are unable to comment further about that at this time.”
You could say “voluntary agreement” is a relative statement, given the speculation that Penn State was essentially forced into the consent decree or face a multi-year death penalty, as reported by ESPN’s Don Van Natta.
It is unclear how much Costas will opine during the segment. In a radio interview three months ago, the Emmy-winning host said that he sees the Freeh report “very differently” now than when it was first released.
“What Freeh did, it seems to me, was not only gather facts but he reached a conclusion which is at least debatable from those facts and than he assigned a motivation, not only to Curley and Schultz and Spanier, but he specifically assigned a very dark motivation to Joe Paterno,” Costas said. “It seems like it might be quite a leap.”
Be sure to tune in tonight on the NBC Sports Network after the playoff hockey game. That’s channel 269 on Comcast in State College.