In a stunning and very public about-face, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett announced today that he will file a lawsuit asking federal courts to throw out the NCAA sanction given to Penn State University as punishment for the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Corbett said at press conference that he plans to argue, via antitrust laws, that the NCAA had "no authority and operated outside its own bylaws" when it handed down five years of probation, post-season bans, and $60 million in penalties for what was ultimately a criminal matter.
The decision to sue is at odds with Corbett's own words. After the penalties were handed down in July of 2012, Corbett publicly accepted the decision, stating, "Part of that corrective process is to accept the serious penalties imposed today by the NCAA on Penn State University and its football program." The university also formally agreed to accept the punishment. The formal acceptance seriously undermines the argument for the new lawsuit. However, Corbett now says the school was essentially blackmailed into accepting the decision or risk facing a much more severe "death penalty" punishment that would have temporarily shut down the entire football program. He also argues that sanction unfairly punish the citizens of his state, including Penn State students and employees, for a crime they didn't personally commit.
The governor's office will handle the lawsuit as a "patron" of the university, without the aid of the Attorney General's office and without the university being a party to the lawsuit. Corbett was the attorney general when the Sandusky investigation first began in 2009. Pennsylvania Congressmen have also complained (and threatened court action) because the NCAA plans to distribute most of the fines to areas outside of Pennsylvania. The family of former Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who had to forfeit more than 100 career wins because of the sanction, also issued a statement supporting the lawsuit.