HARRISBURG – The NCAA wasted no time in challenging a new Pennsylvania law designed to keep the $60 million Penn State fine over the Jerry Sandusky scandal in the state, filing a federal challenge to the legislation hours after Gov. Tom Corbett signed it into law Wednesday.
State and congressional lawmakers have objected to use of the NCAA fine to finance child abuse prevention efforts in other states.
The complaint asks a federal judge to throw it out, saying the Pennsylvania Institution of Higher Education Monetary Penalty Endowment Act violates provisions of the U.S. Constitution. It also asks for an injunction to prevent the law from being enforced.
Defendants in the lawsuit are Corbett, the state’s auditor general, treasurer and the chairman of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
Penn State signed a consent decree last summer in which it agreed to the fine, a four-year football bowl ban and other penalties shortly after a scathing report into how school officials handled reports that Sandusky, a former assistant football coach, was behaving inappropriately with children.
“By seizing the funds and restricting eligibility to benefit from the funds only to Pennsylvania programs benefiting only Pennsylvania residents, the act will defeat the consent decree’s plain terms and frustrate the parties’ intended purpose,” the NCAA’s lawyers wrote.
Corbett reacted to the lawsuit at a meeting with Patriot-News of Harrisburg editors on Wednesday, saying he was not surprised but had not seen the filing.
The lawsuit claims the new legislation is unconstitutional because it directs state officials to collect money to which the state is not entitled. It argues the state has no legal right to abridge the contract between the NCAA and Penn State and says the new law tries to regulate transactions by out-of-state entities in violation of the Commerce Clause.
Joe Metz, a Harrisburg lawyer with federal litigation experience, said the NCAA’s lawsuit had promise, particularly because the law was passed after the consent agreement was signed.
“It’s impossible to predict how something like this will go, but it’s definitely something I’d read carefully and think about, that’s for sure,” said Metz, who isn’t involved in the case.
Penn State, which has made the first of five $12 million payments, is not a party to the litigation. An NCAA task force will determine how the money is spent.
In January, Corbett filed his own federal lawsuit in the matter, accusing the NCAA of antitrust violations and seeking to have all of the consent decree’s penalties thrown out. A request by the NCAA to have that case dismissed is pending.
Sandusky was convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys, some of them on Penn State’s campus. He is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence but maintains his innocence.