Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett is suing the NCAA for the sanctions against Penn State and its football program, saying they would result in "irreparable" economic damage to the university and the state.
The sanctions levied by NCAA president Mark Emmert this past July in the long wake of the Jerry Sandusky abuse scandal, which included a $60 million fine and penalties against the football program -- scholarship reductions and a four-year postseason ban, among others -- were "overreaching" and outside the NCAA's authority, the governor said.
"These sanctions did not punish Sandusky or those who have been criminally charged. Rather, they punished past, present and future student-athletes," Corbett said Wednesday morning during a press conference in State College. "This was a criminal matter, not a violation of NCAA rules."
The suit, according to a release issued before the conference, asks the court to throw out all of the sanctions and that the court declare the consent agreement signed by Penn State president Rodney Erickson to be illegal.
Corbett said university was not invited to join the suit and that Penn State officials, including Erickson, were notified by the governor's office during the weekend. The university issued the following statement Wednesday:
"The university is committed to full compliance with the consent decree, the Athletics Integrity Agreement and the implementation of the Freeh report recommendations. We look forward to continuing to work with Sen. George Mitchell as the athletic integrity monitor for complete fulfillment of the Athletics Integrity Agreement."
Questioned about the timing of the suit -- why he was filing it more than five months after the sanctions instead of a few days -- Corbett, who has been the state's governor since 2011, said he did not want to distract from what the Penn State football team, which went 8-4 this past season under Bill O'Brien, was doing.
"I wanted to thoroughly research the issue," he said. "And I didn't want to make the same mistake the NCAA did and carelessly rush into it.
"Penn State does have a moral responsibility to the victims and the community. And it has accepted that responsibility," Corbett added. "If the lawsuit is successful, I would suggest to the BOT they take the $60 million and use it to work for the abuse victims."
Also in attendance at the press conference were several members of the Penn State Football Lettermen's Club, other former student-athletes, student leaders and local business owners and other politicians.
The governor's release detailed the significant financial impact Penn State's football program has on the state's economy, saying it generated $161.5 million to business volume impact in 2009 and creates an estimated 2,200 jobs.
The NCAA responded Wednesday by issuing a statement through general counsel Donald Remy, calling the lawsuit "disappointing."
"Not only does this forthcoming lawsuit appear to be without merit, it is an affront to all of the victims in this tragedy - lives that were destroyed by the criminal actions of Jerry Sandusky," read the statement. "While the innocence that was stolen can never be restored, Penn State has accepted the consequences for its role and the role of its employees and is moving forward. Today's announcement by the Governor is a setback to the University's efforts.”
The family of former Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who was fired by the board of trustees in Nov. 2011 and had more than 100 of his career wins vacated as part of the sanctions, told the Associated Press Wednesday it was encouraged by word that the governor was filling the lawsuit.