The family of the late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, several Penn State trustees, faculty, former players and coaches are suing the NCAA. The group will file a lawsuit against the NCAA on Thursday in an effort to overturn what they believe to be “unlawful” sanctions against the University.
The 40-page lawsuit will be filed in the Common Pleas Court of Centre County. The lawsuit accuses the NCAA, its president Mark Emmert, and former chairman of the executive committee Edward Ray, of acting in direct violation of the organization’s rules through their actions based on a report by former FBI director Louis Freeh.
The Freeh report, released July 12, 2012, investigated the child sex abuse allegations against former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky. The report accused top Penn State officials, including football coach Joe Paterno, former school president Graham Spanier and administrator Gary Schultz of hiding Sandusky’s abuse from authorities.
The report was the basis for harsh sanctions against the school from the NCAA, which included a $60 million fine that would be used nationally to finance child abuse prevention grants, as well as a four-year bowl game ban for the university's marquee football program, the forfeiture of 112 wins and significant scholarship cuts.
The lawsuit from the Paterno family claims that the Freeh report was “fundamentally wrong, incomplete and inaccurate.”
"This case is further proof that the NCAA has lost all sense of its mission,” said Wick Sollers, the attorney for those filing the lawsuit. “If there was ever a situation that demanded meticulous review and a careful adherence to NCAA rules and guidelines, this was it. Instead, the NCAA placed a premium on speed over accuracy and precipitous action over due process.”
Sollers also referred to the NCAA sanctions as “an illegally imposed penalty that is based on false assumptions and secret discussions.” Finally, Sollers claimed the sanctions were a “disservice to the victims and everyone else who cares about the truth of the Sandusky scandal.”
The lawsuit also claims the NCAA engaged in “unlawful conduct,” accusing the association of “breaching their contractual obligations and violating their duties of good faith and fair dealing” as well as defaming those who filed the lawsuit.
"The one thing everyone should agree on is that the Sandusky scandal deserves a thorough, fair and careful review," Sollers said. "The victims of Sandusky, the community of State College, the Second Mile and everyone associated with Penn State deserve to know the full truth of what happened. The NCAA's actions sought to limit the knowledge of the case and trample the rights of the individuals and institutions that were unfairly and inaccurately blamed by the Freeh report."
The lawsuit demands that the sanctions be overturned and also seeks both compensatory and punitive damages from the NCAA. Representatives from the Paterno estate also say they will donate the net proceeds of any money received from the suit to charity.
The following people are participating in the lawsuit: