Gov. Tom Corbett plans to announce Wednesday that he will file a lawsuit against the NCAA to challenge sanctions levied against Penn State because of the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal.
“Corbett will announce that he is filing a federal lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for its sanctions against Penn State University,” according to a statement issued Tuesday afternoon by the governor’s press office.
The lawsuit will be filed in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg. Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley said no further information would be released until an 11 a.m. news conference Wednesday in State College.
Corbett’s statement did not indicate whether his office coordinated its legal strategy with state Attorney General-elect Kathleen Kane, who is scheduled to be sworn in Jan. 15.
Kane, a Democrat, ran on a vow to investigate why it took state prosecutors nearly three years to charge Sandusky.
Corbett was state attorney general when the state grand jury investigation into Sandusky began. Charges were not filed against the former football coach until November 2011, a year after Corbett became governor and therefore a member of Penn State’s board of trustees. Corbett has defended the length of the investigation, which has been hotly debated.
The Associated Press said Corbett plans to file an antitrust action against the NCAA, which declined to comment on Tuesday.
The NCAA sanctions, agreed to by the university in July, included a $60 million fine that would be used nationally to finance child abuse prevention grants. State and federal lawmakers have raised objections to the money being spent outside Pennsylvania.
Penn State spokesman David La Torre said the university is not involved in the lawsuit and has no comment.
“It seems to me to be a very difficult lawsuit to win,” said University of Pittsburgh law professor John Burkoff.
“You have to remember that Penn State agreed to these sanctions and were involved in negotiating the severity of the sanctions,” Burkoff said.
“It seems rather difficult for the state to come in and upset what essentially is a consensual agreement between two other parties,” said Burkoff, who said he believes the lawsuit may be “unwinnable” and “possibly a waste of state resources.”
Sandusky, 68, who maintains his innocence, was convicted in June of sexually assaulting 10 boys, some of them on campus. The former defensive coordinator, who helped coach the Nittany Lions to two national championships, is serving a sentence of 30 to 60 years in state prison.
The unprecedented sanctions against Penn State –– which includes a four-year bowl ban, the loss of 40 scholarships and forfeiture of 111 wins –– were levied upon a controversial report by former FBI director Louis Freeh detailing allegations of a cover-up involving head coach Joe Paterno, university President Graham Spanier and university officials Tim Curley and Gary Schultz.
The scandal ended the 46-year tenure of Paterno, who died Jan. 22, and resulted in the firing of Spanier. A grand jury indicted Spanier, Schultz and Curley on charges they concealed longtime concerns about Sandusky.
Spanier, Schultz and Curley, who deny the allegations as well as those of lying to the grand jury, are awaiting trial.
Curley is on leave with pay as athletic director until the final year of his contract expires, Schultz has retired as an administrator, and Spanier remains a tenured faculty member.
U.S. Rep. Charles Dent, R-Lehigh Valley, and state Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre County, have said the NCAA rejected their requests that the $60 million fine be spent solely on child sex abuse programs in Pennsylvania.
NCAA President Mark Emmert had said in a Dec. 12 letter that a task force had been charged with allocating at least 25 percent of the fine money to programs in Pennsylvania.
Dent called Emmert’s response “unacceptable and unsatisfactory.”
Corman said last week that he plans to introduce legislation that would require the money remain in Pennsylvania and to file a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court to freeze the $12 million that Penn State has set aside in a money market account.
Neither Dent nor Corman could not be reached for comment Tuesday.