The university recently made the first payment of $12 million of the sanctions toward a national fund to support the victims of child abuse. Other sanctions included a ban on its football team from appearing in bowl games for four years.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett said on Wednesday he will seek to have the costly sanctions levied by the NCAA against Penn State University over the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal thrown out, saying the punishment threatens to cause devastating damage to the state’s residents and economy.
The sanctions, which included an unprecedented $60 million fine, are “overreaching and unlawful,” the governor said at a news conference in State College where the university is located. He said a lawsuit would be filed asking a federal court to throw out all Sandusky-related sanctions against Penn State.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association, the governing body of U.S. collegiate sports, fined Penn State $60 million in July and voided its football victories for the past 14 seasons in a dramatic rebuke for its failure to stop Sandusky’s sexual abuse of children.
“This was a criminal matter, not a violation of NCAA rules,” Corbett said. He added that he believed the NCAA acted as it did because it benefited from the sizable penalty.
The Republican governor has come under criticism for his handling of the scandal, which was revealed by a grand jury he convened in 2009 when he was Pennsylvania’s attorney general.
State Attorney General-elect Kathleen Kane, a Democrat, said during her campaign last year that by convening the grand jury, Corbett failed to protect children by delaying prosecution for more than two years. She has vowed to probe his handling of the case. Corbett has said he would welcome such an investigation.
In a statement, Kane said she had not been consulted on the filing of the lawsuit and would reserve comment.
Pennsylvania voters too have expressed dissatisfaction with Corbett’s handling of the case. Nearly two thirds of registered voters said he did a fair or poor job, according to a Franklin & Marshall College survey in September.
Sandusky, Penn State’s former defensive coordinator, was convicted in June of 45 counts of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years, some in the football team’s showers. He is serving a prison term of 30 to 60 years.
The scandal sparked a national discussion of child sex abuse, embarrassed the university and implicated top officials in a cover-up, including the late Joe Paterno, the legendary football head coach.
The NCAA said it was disappointed by Corbett’s move.