Pennsylvania Governor Sues NCAA Over Sandusky Sanctions

Governor Corbett believes the sanctions the N.C.A.A. handed down in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal were too harsh and missed the people they should be aiming for. He’s wrong.

Penn State, Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky are back in the news yet again. This time, though, it is not their doing. It seems Governor Corbett is suing on behalf of the residents and small businesses of Pennsylvania to get the penalties the N.C.A.A. handed down, including a $60 million fine and a 4-year probation, during which the Nittany Lions will be ineligible to play in a post-season bowl, negated. Penn State is not a party to the suit and has publicly stated that it will abide by the sanctions it received.

Why would the Governor, without support from the University, launch this suit? The two answers are, in short, votes and money. Since the full horror of the crimes Jerry Sandusky was then alleged to have committed with the knowledge of members of the University, including Paterno, came to light more than a year ago, Penn State fans have continued to defend both the school and its former head coach. Feeling like they are now victims, they will look kindly upon any politician that stands up in their defense. The good Governor must know this.

Moreover, he has already been buffeted from both sides on this case. Paterno supporters saw him as the architect of the move to fire the now-deceased coach last November, a criticism to which Governor Corbett has been particularly sensitive. On the other hand, there are those who believe he reacted too slowly to the case, which he began investigating as the state’s Attorney General back in 2009. As Politico reported two months ago, only 17 percent of Pennsylvanians approve of his handling of it. Clearly, this is an area in which the Governor needs to resuscitate his image.

The second reason for the suit I’ve alluded to before on The Good Men Project. The Penn State football program is one of the state’s biggest economic engines, contributing, at least before the scandal erupted, an average of $59 million to the Pennsylvania economy every home game. Over an average of 6 to 7 home games every fall, that’s anywhere from $360 million to $420 million annually.

Penn State remains both competitive (the team finished this season, it’s first on probation, 8 and 4) and popular. Though I haven’t seen updated numbers for the 2012 season, my bet is the economic indicators didn’t take all that big a dip. Governor Corbett must know, however, that four years is a long time to go without playing in a bowl and that the inability to compete in the post-season is, ultimately, going to have a long-term impact on the program’s recruiting, from which it will be difficult, if not impossible, to recover. Mediocre football teams don’t generate $400 million in economic activity.

Now, usually, I’d be all for suing the N.C.A.A., an extrajudicial junta whose regulations are both byzantine and inconsistently enforced. But, in this case, Governor Corbett is wrong, both in motive and intent. He claimed at a press conference yesterday, “These [N.C.A.A.] sanctions did not punish Sandusky, nor did they punish the others who have been criminally charged. Rather, they punished the past, the present, the local businesses and the citizens of Pennsylvania.”

Of course, that past was intimately tied up with the crimes Jerry Sandusky committed and the present remains equally culpable. Penn State’s fans continue to exhibit a lack of remorse, the suit itself is prima facie evidence of a lack of shame or remorse on the part of the Governor, who is now, by law, a member of the university’s board of directors, and the local businesses and citizens of Pennsylvania helped create the atmosphere that allowed, one might even say encouraged, Paterno and school administrators to consider the damage to the football program a scandal might cause ahead of the very real damage that was being done to the young boys Sandusky abused.

AP Photo

About Liam Day

Liam Day has been a youth worker, teacher, campaign manager, political pundit, communications director, and professional basketball player. His poems have appeared at Slow Trains Apt, and Wilderness House Literary Review. His op-eds and essays have appeared in Annalemma Stymie, the Boston Globe and Boston Herald. He lives in Boston, where he works as a public health professional. He is the Sports Editor at The Good Men Project. You can follow him on Twitter at @LiamDay7.


  1. ***Don’t use the NCAA to do what the police are supposed to do. ***

    When the president of a local Lions Club was caught yet again as a child rapist (his real career), the Lions Club eliminated any and all affiliation with him, even though they knew he was a registered offender dating back to 1979 and raping little girls. It was within their right to off the creep, but it was not within their right to enable future rapes of babies by putting him in many many child-rich environments and events.

    When the Boy Scouts cover-up abusers, some people sue the BSA for damages. Others sue to be included as leaders. But the BSA takes their due-rap for being a rape-house. Said “rape houses” supply and harbour enabling environs. They ought to be either torn-down or (or nothing)….they out to be torn down as MANY guys here have stated.

    Don’t I hear wailing and gnashing of teeth for the destruction of the Catholic Church cuz some priests can’t control themselves?

    But OMG! The Lions Club does such wonderful things like the local SUMMER CAMP (God help us).
    But OMG ROB! The Boy Sprouts or America do such amazing things for so many boys.
    But OMG ROB! The Cath Church does so many wonderful things for so many people around the world like feeding the poor and saving souls.

    So Jet, YOU gonna tell me that yer chill with the Boy Scouts harbouring baby rapists, and making them a safe house in which to do it? You don’t think the organization ought not pay? You gonna tell me that Penn Snake is dif?

    Let me save us all an iteration:

    Jet: The BSA and Penn Snake are two entirely different things.
    Rob: No…they are in NO fkg way different! They too are an institution that got a bad sexually transmitted disease. You liberals just can’t seem to bring yourselves to judge evil, call it by its name and damn it to oblivion.

  2. Jet Airliner says:

    “Are you really too simple to see that the abuse was enabled by a management infrastructure and culture of cover-up and deliberate ignorance?”

    The people involved in the cover up have had criminal charges brought against them. The NCAA doesn’t exist to punish criminals – we have the criminal justice system to do that. The NCAA exists to punish things like cheating, not criminal activity.

    “Penn State’s fans continue to exhibit a lack of remorse, the suit itself is prima facie evidence of a lack of shame or remorse on the part of the Governor”

    Why should they feel remorse for something they didn’t do?

  3. “Penn State’s fans continue to exhibit a lack of remorse”

    Why should they feel remorse for something they didn’t do?

    “Are you really too simple to see that the abuse was enabled by a management infrastructure and culture of cover-up and deliberate ignorance?”

    The people who committed the cover-up have had criminal charges brought against them. The NCAA exists to punish offenses like cheating – it doesn’t exist to punish criminals. The police exists to punish criminals. Don’t use the NCAA to do what the police are supposed to do.

  4. Well stated Liam. Thank you for writing it.

    IMO though: Gov Corbett is as direct a voice of Penn State as the Chancellor’s office. The objection was routed to the Gov out of political power and appropriateness of source. That is, the University would have looked to be in clear, bad-form if they called for reversal of the sanctions. The Gov is taking all the flack for them. In PA dynamics, the Gov IS Penn State.

    BTW: I’d love to hear about your ball-playing days in Northern Ireland in some future piece.

  5. So happy I don’t pay taxes to this buffoon anymore.

  6. Does this punish the actual players n students? Or are they tainted for 4 years and won’t be able to advance their careers because of a monster who abused other players?

    • Doreen A Mannion says:

      Advance their careers? You mean the one who might make it as a pro? Not at all; all the players were given the option to transfer to any school they wanted to without having to sit out the usual year. If a pro career was what they were after (and not a PSU education), it shouldn’t matter if they had to transfer.

      • Ah ok. Well that’s something at least, as long as they weren’t unduly affected as well by the sanctions.

        • Gee Archy, Are you really too simple to see that the abuse was enabled by a management infrastructure and culture of cover-up and deliberate ignorance?

          Boy! I can’t wait till the school loses its accreditation as is being considered! That’ll be swell!

          • ? I only give a damn about the players n future players, the management can be fired if it helps. But I do not know exactly how college level football works so I was curious if the players would feel any ill effects from the actions against the college or if they were able to get through fine. If they can transfer to another college it sounds like they’ll probably be fine. I just wouldn’t want to see them unfairly punished for the sins of the college if that makes sense.

  7. Richard Aubrey says:

    Accusing, in effect, a McDonald’s restaurant of contributing to the Sandusky issue is kind of a stretch, don’t you think?
    It could be stretched to any business or any individual anywhere whose revenues or income derive in part from anything later found to have an evil component.
    For example, Div 1 NCAA revenue athletes have a high rate of violent crime, compared to the rest of the student body, or people in general. At all Div 1 schools. Do we blame the local bars, the sweatshirt vendors?
    Nope. Just this case.
    Makes no sense, except as an exercise in released resentment.
    As to whether Corbett should have investigated faster, I’d think he’d want to know what happened to the previous guy who was trying to investigate. Not to mention looking over his shoulder.

    • Richard,

      Blaming McDonald’s IS a stretch…as much of a stretch as blaming the NRA for things its non-members have done. This society clearly picks and chooses its dotted-lines of slight-relation and its solid-lines of full ownership. They make the distinctions between the two modes as political motives will have them chose. But clearly, some think there is this a true discernible margin of separation between the university and Sandusky’s on-campus rape scenes…his in-shower, on campus, NCAA field-house rape scenes. Yeah….tough to see such a connection Mr Corbett!

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