A federal judge this morning dismissed Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s (R) antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA, saying she could not “find any factual allegations supporting (Corbett’s) allegation of ‘concerted action’ that might nudge its conspiracy claim into ‘plausible’ territory.” The early dismissal is somewhat surprising, even for a case that never had much chance of victory, but it will thankfully bring everyone one step closer to the end of the petty bickering and face-saving efforts that have filled the aftermath of the scandal.
Corbett’s suit alleged that the NCAA violated antitrust law when it leveled major sanctions against Penn State University’s athletics program in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child rape scandal last year, a claim that would have required him to prove that the rest of the NCAA’s institutions essentially conspired to destroy Penn State’s football program. The NCAA fined Penn State’s football program $60 million, banned it from postseason play for four years, and reduced the number of scholarships it could offer to recruits. None of that constituted an antitrust violation, Judge Yvette Kane decided.
The lawsuit was the latest messy episode in the scandal that won’t die, as every party involved seems more committed to saving its own face than to rehabilitating and reforming an institution and a system that failed the eight young men who became Sandusky’s victims. Corbett’s suit was believed by many to be an effort to win political support from Penn State bigwigs ahead of his uphill re-election battle in 2014, and it could have easily obscured a potential investigation into his own role in the scandal in his former capacity as Pennsylvania’s attorney general.
The NCAA, meanwhile, released a statement from chief legal counsel Donald Remy saying that it was “exceedingly pleased” with the dismissal. “Our hope is that this decision not only will end this case but also serve as a beginning of the end of the divide among those who, like Penn State, want to move forward to put the horror of the Sandusky crimes behind the university and those who want to prolong the fight and with it the pain for all involved,” Remy said.
And outside the case, the family of late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno has filed its own lawsuit against the NCAA and investigator Louis Freeh, who authored the damning report into the scandal, an attempt to reclaim Paterno’s tattered legacy that left him not as college football’s all-time winningest coach but as the man who allowed one of the most disgusting scandals in the history of American sports to happen on his watch.
It’s well past time for the aftermath of Penn State to move from legal wrangling to an actual focus on implementing changes to prevent similar scandals in the future. Corbett’s lawsuit was vain. The Paterno family’s probably is too. The NCAA’s sloppy handling of the sanctions invited them both, frivolous and personally motivated as the suits might be. And all of it had the potential to cause even more problems than it could have solved in the rehabilitation and reform of both Penn State and the system in which it is involved.
There are no winners in this case or in the Penn State saga as a whole. Not the NCAA. Not Penn State. Not Tom Corbett or Joe Paterno. And certainly not the young men who became a monster’s victims because no one stood up to defend them until it was too late. For all the talk of how Penn State’s culture is in need of change, the reality is that Penn State is only part of the problem. This could have happened on any number of college campuses where football, basketball, or some other sport is king, and on smaller scales and in different ways it already has.
They are all responsible in their own ways. Who wins and who survives each legal wrangling doesn’t change that a bit, and the legal fights are doing nothing but getting in the way of the change that needs to take place to make sure it never happens again.