NCAA head, state officials may take stand at trial

Author: Associated Press
MGN Online

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – The head of the NCAA, Penn State’s former president and former FBI director Louis Freeh are among those who could take the stand in three weeks when a lawsuit brought by two Pennsylvania officials goes to trial.

A joint pretrial statement filed Friday said the Commonwealth Court trial in Harrisburg, scheduled for January, should last about five days and could involve dozens of witnesses.

State Sen. Jake Corman and state Treasurer Rob McCord, who brought the lawsuit, described the issues at stake as whether the NCAA followed its own rules when it entered into a consent decree with Penn State two years ago, whether that decree is valid and whether the NCAA acted in good faith.

The NCAA put it more narrowly, saying the issue was simply the consent decree’s validity.

The 2012 consent decree, imposed over Penn State’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal, included a four-year bowl ban, a loss of football scholarships, the elimination of 112 football team wins and a $60 million fine.

Corman and McCord sued to enforce a 2013 state law that requires the $60 million be spent within Pennsylvania, and although the NCAA has agreed to that, the lawsuit has since morphed into a challenge to the validity of the consent decree.

Commonwealth Court ordered in April that Penn State be included as a party to the lawsuit and said more information was needed about whether Penn State and the NCAA acted lawfully when they signed the consent decree. In a lone dissent, Judge Dan Pellegrini wrote that no one had disputed the legality of the consent decree.

Last month, the state Supreme Court turned down an effort by the NCAA to avoid the January trial, but Justice Max Baer echoed Pellegrini, saying the NCAA “has presented … a colorable argument that the Commonwealth Court … inserted an undisputed issue into an otherwise moot case.”

Corman and McCord want the consent decree declared void, with Penn State refunded the portion of the $60 million it has already paid.

The NCAA argued the decree is valid, and a footnote to the latest filing said the organization maintains “that the consent decree’s validity is not a material, disputed fact in this case, nor is it relevant to any remaining issue” under the 2013 law that directed the money remain in Pennsylvania.

Corman and McCord listed six witnesses: former Penn State president Rodney Erickson, current university board chairman Keith Masser, three lawyers for Penn State and Ed Ray, the Oregon State University president who formerly chaired the NCAA’s executive committee.

The NCAA identified 30 witnesses, including Erickson, Masser, Ray, Corman, NCAA executive director Mark Emmert, others with ties to Penn State and the NCAA, and Freeh. Freeh led a team that produced a report for Penn State that was highly critical of how top university officials handled complaints about Sandusky. Penn State’s witness list is Erickson, Masser and two university attorneys.

Members of the Penn State board planned to meet Monday in State College to consider a proposal that would change the university from defendant to plaintiff in the lawsuit brought by McCord and Corman. Masser has said trustees can avoid the meeting to deprive the alumni-elected members who support the measure from having enough trustees in the room to conduct business.

Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant football coach, was convicted in 2012 of sexually abusing 10 boys and sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.