Republican Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has filed a federal anti-trust lawsuit against the NCAA over the heavy fines levied against Pennsylvania State University in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal.
The governor held a press conference Wednesday in Harrisburg, Pa., where he announced that the commonwealth will be looking to have the fines dismissed. Corbett claims the NCAA circumvented its own bylaws by injecting itself into the Sandusky case—a scandal the state says was playing out in the courts.
The NCAA announced last July that the Penn State football team will be banned from postseason play for four seasons and fined $60 million, a fee that will go towards a national endowment that serves child sexual abuse victims.
Corbett said the NCAA piled on, punishing students, businesses, football players and coaches who had nothing to do with the Sandusky case.
"Just as we fight for the [Sandusky] victims every day, we should stand up and fight for those who have been punished unfairly by the NCAA," Corbett says.
The NCAA released a statement a few hours after the press conference, saying it was "disappointed" by the suit.
"Not only does this forthcoming lawsuit appear to be without merit, it is an affront to all of the victims in this tragedy - lives that were destroyed by the criminal actions of Jerry Sandusky," the statement read.
Corbett says the state has been reviewing the suit since the sanctions were announced last summer, but did not want to file the suit during football season, saying that doing so would have been an added distraction to the team.
The fines came after an independent report conducted by former FBI director Louie Freeh was released that stated top university officials, including iconic former football coach Joe Paterno and university president Graham Spanier, showed "total disregard" for Sandusky's victims.
Corbett said Wednesday the suit is not a "repudiation" of the Freeh Report, but the state considers the report as incomplete.
"The NCAA and its president, Mark Emmert, seized upon the opportunity for publicity to their own benefit," Corbett said. "The NCAA shouldn't have sanctioned Penn State ... the NCAA has no authority and operated outside of their own bylaws with these sanctions."
Joe Paterno's family released a statement Wednesday calling the lawsuit "encouraging," and announcing that their own review of the Freeh report was nearing its completion.
The governor can file a law suit on the school's behalf since the state is the primary contributor of funds to the university.
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UPDATE: 01/02/13, 12:45 p.m.: This story has been updated with a statement from the NCAA