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Government seeks to overturn NCAA sanctions vs. Penn State

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FILE - In this Nov. 10, 2011 file photo, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett makes remarks during a news conference after a Penn State Board of Trustees meeting in State College, Pa. Corbett said Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013 he plans to sue the NCAA in federal court over sanctions imposed against Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

By MARK SCOLFORO

The Associated Press

First published Jan 02 2013 10:38AM
Updated Jan 2, 2013 12:33PM

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. • Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said Wednesday he will file a federal lawsuit against the NCAA in a bid to overturn the hefty sanctions imposed on Penn State University in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal.

At a news conference at the university campus in State College, Corbett said the NCAA exceeded its authority in imposing "harsh penalties" over the abuse committed by Sandusky, a former assistant football coach. He said the NCAA’s sanctions, which the university agreed to, harm past, present and future students.

He said the antitrust suit would be filed later Wednesday in federal court in Harrisburg. If he wins, all the NCAA penalties would be eliminated.

The sanctions imposed in July included a $60 million fine for child abuse prevention grants and a four-year bowl game ban for the university’s football program.

Corbett said he waited until now to file the lawsuit because he wanted to thoroughly research the legal issues and did not want it to interfere with football season.

Corbett, a Republican, said his office did not coordinate its legal strategy with state Attorney General-elect Kathleen Kane, who is scheduled to be sworn in Jan. 15. Instead, the current attorney general, Linda Kelly, agreed to grant the governor authority to pursue the matter.

Corbett said the penalties have harmed students, student athletes, the university and the state as a whole.

Kane, a Democrat, ran on a vow to investigate why it took state prosecutors nearly three years to charge Sandusky, an assistant under longtime football coach Joe Paterno. Corbett was the attorney general when that office took over the case in early 2009 and until he became governor in January 2011.

State and congressional lawmakers from Pennsylvania have objected to using the NCAA’s fine to finance activities in other states. Penn State has already made the first $12 million payment, and an NCAA task force is deciding how it should be spent.

The NCAA, which has declined to comment on the planned lawsuit, has said at least a quarter of the money would be spent in Pennsylvania.

Republican U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent called that "unacceptable and unsatisfactory."

Last week, state Sen. Jake Corman, a Republican whose district includes Penn State’s main campus, said he plans to seek court action barring any of the first $12 million from being released to groups outside the state.

Sandusky, 68, was convicted in June on charges he sexually abused 10 boys, some on Penn State’s campus. He’s serving a 30- to 60-year state prison term.

Eight young men testified against him, describing a range of abuse they said went from grooming and manipulation to fondling, oral sex and anal rape when they were boys.

Sandusky has maintained his innocence, acknowledging he showered with boys but insisting he never molested them.

The lawsuit represents the first time Corbett has suggested that the sanctions should never have been imposed.

When the sanctions were announced in July, Corbett expressed relief that Penn State had escaped the "death penalty" that would have dismantled the football program for a season or more. He later expressed a desire to keep the $60 million in fines within Pennsylvania.

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