Bellefonte, PA (Sports Network) - The family of the late Joe Paterno has filed
a lawsuit against the NCAA seeking to overturn the unlawful sanctions levied
against Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case.
Joining the Paterno family in the lawsuit, filed Thursday in Pennsylvania, are
several members of the Penn State Board of Trustees, faculty, former players
The 40-page lawsuit asserts that the NCAA, its president Mark Emmert, and
former chairman of the executive committee Edward Ray acted in clear and
direct violation of the organization's own rules based on a flawed report by
former FBI director Louis Freeh. The report on which the NCAA relied for its
actions is fundamentally wrong, incomplete and inaccurate, according to the
In February, the Paterno family released its own findings in a review of
Freeh's investigation and called it "A Rush to Injustice."
"This case is further proof that the NCAA has lost all sense of its mission,"
said attorney Wick Sollers in a statement. "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."
Sandusky was found guilty last June on 45 counts charging him with sexual
abuse of 10 boys over a 15-year period. He was sentenced to 30-60 years in
prison last October.
The scandal, which broke in November 2011 with Sandusky's arrest, brought down
the Penn State football program, tarnished the legacy of Paterno and scarred
the entire university.
After the Freeh Report was released last July, the NCAA followed with severe
sanctions against the university's football program. The penalties included a
four-year postseason ban, five years of probation and vacation of all wins
dating to 1998.
The NCAA did not follow its usual lengthy investigative process, using the
Freeh Report as its basis to issue sanctions.
"An illegally imposed penalty that is based on false assumptions and secret
discussions is a disservice to the victims and everyone else who cares about
the truth of the Sandusky scandal," Sollers added. "This matter will never be
resolved until the full facts are reviewed in a lawful and transparent
Paterno was fired a few weeks after Sandusky's arrest amid accusations he
didn't do enough to stop the abuse. The college football legend died in
January 2012 of lung cancer and never really had a chance to tell his side of
In the Freeh Report, Paterno was among many Penn State officials accused of
concealing "critical facts relating to Sandusky's child abuse from the
authorities, the board of trustees, Penn State community, and the public at
The lawsuit brought by more than a dozen distinguished members of the Penn
State community asserts the NCAA and the other defendants engaged in "unlawful
conduct" by breaching their contractual obligations and violating their duties
of good faith and fair dealing.
"The one thing everyone should agree on is that the Sandusky scandal deserves
a thorough, fair and careful review," said Sollers. "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
The lawsuit lodges six counts against the NCAA, Emmert and Ray, including
breach of contract, civil conspiracy, defamation and commercial disparagement.
In addition to overturning the sanctions, the lawsuit seeks compensatory and
punitive damages from the NCAA for its improper conduct and breach of
contract, as well as reimbursement for legal costs. With respect to the
Paterno estate, it will donate the net proceeds of any monetary recovery from
this lawsuit to charity.
The Sports Network