STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — The NCAA imposed landmark sanctions against Penn State over the Jerry Sandusky sexual-abuse scandal in a cynical ploy to weaken the university and enhance its own dismal reputation, Pennsylvania's governor claims in an unprecedented federal antitrust lawsuit against college sports' governing body.
Gov. Tom Corbett said the NCAA veered dramatically from its own disciplinary rules and procedures when it decreed last summer that Penn State would pay a $60 million fine, and the football team would suffer a four-year postseason ban and a dramatic reduction in the number of athletic scholarships it could offer.
Corbett wants a federal judge to throw out the sanctions, saying they have harmed students, business owners and others who had nothing to do with Sandusky's crimes against children.
"A handful of top NCAA officials simply inserted themselves into an issue they had no authority to police under their own bylaws and one that was clearly being handled by the justice system," Corbett told a news conference on Wednesday.
In a statement, the NCAA said the lawsuit has no merit and called it an "affront" to Sandusky's victims.
Penn State said it had no role in the lawsuit. In fact, it agreed not to sue as part of a deal with the NCAA to accept the sanctions, imposed last July after an investigation found that coach Joe Paterno and other top officials covered up sexual-abuse allegations against Sandusky, a former member of Paterno's staff, for more than a decade in order to shield the university from bad publicity.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday represents an about-face for Corbett. Six months ago, he encouraged Penn State to "accept the serious penalties" imposed by the NCAA.
The deal was highly unpopular with many fans, students and alumni. Corbett, who is up for re-election next year, deflected a question about whether his response has helped or hurt him politically.