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NCAA Faces First Setback Related to Penn State Sanctions

At long last, the NCAA faces a setback related to the sanctions levied against Penn State. And boy does it feel good.

Commonwealth Court denied the NCAA’s request to dismiss the lawsuit filed by state Sen. Jake Corman and state Treasurer Rob McCord to keep Penn State’s $60 million fine money in Pennsylvania. Corman and McCord argued in the lawsuit that the fine money should be paid in a state endowment, which Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law earlier this year. The NCAA maintains that this law Corbett signed violates the consent decree between Penn State and the NCAA.

But in the ruling issued Wednesday, the court majority concluded that the consent decree does not specify where the money should be spent, only stipulating that it be spent on an endowment for child sexual abuse programs. This means Corman and McCord will be able to proceed with the lawsuit.

The court ruling comes months after a federal judge dismissed a challenge from Corbett on the NCAA sanctions. The judge concluded that Corbett didn’t have legal standing in the case. That NCAA used that same argument this time around — but the results were not in its favor.

The court majority, with President Judge Dan Pellegrini dissenting, concluded Corman has legal standing because he plays a role in overseeing the endowment fund that the Penn State fine money be paid. McCord was found to have legal standing as he also oversees the endowment fund. Because both men have a stake in the case, the judges rejected the NCAA’s first objection.

The majority also overruled the NCAA’s objection that the court lacked jurisdiction without Penn State as a defendant in the suit — the university has made sure on every occasion to state its position of staying uninvolved.

But the court majority found that Penn State’s involvement is only to make five payments of $12 million. Pellegrini agreed with the NCAA in his dissent, arguing that Penn State should be involved with the lawsuit for it to proceed.

The NCAA also argued that the state law signed by Corbett violates state and federal constitutions barring unlawful seizure of property. The judges rejected this claim because the Penn State fine money never became the property of the NCAA.

“The consent decree does not contain a scintilla of language that suggests the NCAA will have ownership of or control over the fine paid by PSU,” Judge Anne E. Covey wrote.

Because the NCAA’s objections were overruled, the organization has 20 days to respond to the claims made in the lawsuit filed by Corman and McCord.

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About the Author

Jessica Tully

Jessica Tully is a first-year law student at Penn State's Dickinson School of Law. She graduated in May 2014 with degrees in journalism and political science.

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