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Joe Paterno’s family sues NCAA over sanctions

The suit contends that the organization exceeded its authority when imposing penalties in connection with the Jerry Sandusky abuse scandal

The family of late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno is suing the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in an effort to overturn sizeable sanctions levied against the university in connection with the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

The Paterno family, who are joined in their suit by former PSU coaches and faculty members, have accused the NCAA; its president, Mark Emmert; and the former chair of its executive committee, Edward Ray, of “gross mishandling of a criminal matter that falls far outside the scope of their authority.”

Following  revelations in 2011 that former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky had sexually abused multiple children over the course of more than a decade—abuse that was overlooked by several university officials—the NCAA issued harsh sanctions against the school. Among those penalties was a $60 million fine, a four-year ban on postseason play, a limit on the school’s number of football scholarships and the vacating of all football wins from 1998 to 2011.

The Paterno family, however, contends that the NCAA had no right to impose such sanctions, because Sandusky’s criminal actions were unrelated to the school’s athletic program. The lawsuit also condemns the NCAA for its reliance on the so-called Freeh Report, in which former FBI director Louis Freeh harshly condemned Penn State for its allegedly role in Sandusky’s abuse.

“The Freeh Report was an improper and unreliable ‘rush to injustice,’ and it has been thoroughly discredited,” the lawsuit says. “Many of its main conclusions are either unsupported by evidence or supported only by anonymous, hearsay information of the type specifically prohibited by the NCAA rules.”

Paterno’s family is seeking to overturn the NCAA’s sanctions, and also asked a court for compensatory and punitive damages.

For more InsideCounsel coverage of the Penn State scandal, see:

Penn State whistleblower lawsuit will move forward

NCAA wants Pennsylvania’s suit over Sandusky dropped

Pa. governor sues NCAA over Penn State scandal

Penn State’s GC was criticized too harshly for her role in the Sandusky scandal

Former Penn State president says there was no cover-up

Whistleblower in Penn State sexual abuse scandal sues school

NCAA fines Penn State $60 million

Penn State GC criticized in report

Former Penn State assistant coach to sue university

Lessons from the Penn State scandal

Alanna Byrne

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