Pennsylvania's attorney general said Thursday she granted Gov. Tom Corbett the authority to file a federal antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA because her office is currently prosecuting three Penn State administrators.
Attorney General Linda Kelly told The Associated Press that "an actual conflict of interest could, and likely would, arise if this office were involved in both cases." Kelly said the "size and scope" of the criminal cases "made it untenable" for the state prosecutors' office to also be involved in the civil lawsuit.
Kelly said her office got the request from Corbett on December 14th and granted it a few days later. Corbett nominated Kelly to succeed him as attorney general two years ago when Corbett became governor.
The lawsuit filed argues the NCAA acted illegally and was motivated by a desire to gain power for its president and weaken the university. The 43-page complaint seeks to vacate all of the punishment related to the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal, including a $60 million fine and four-year bowl ban. The lawsuit claims the NCAA was motivated by a desire to "gain leverage in the court of public opinion."
The NCAA said it was disappointed in Corbett's lawsuit, calling it meritless and an "affront" to Sandusky's victims.
Corbett said the university and state have been harmed by what he calls "harsh penalties." Corbett claims the NCAA punished students, the community and businesses around the university, not the former assistant football coach who molested children.
The sanctions, imposed in July, included a $60 million fine for child abuse prevention grants, a four-year bowl game ban for the university's marquee football program and the forfeiture of 112 wins. Corbett said the lawsuit shows the NCAA actions were overreaching and unlawful.
Joe Paterno's family released a statement saying that Gov. Corbett "now realizes, as do many others, that there was an inexcusable rush to judgment" in the aftermath of the child sex abuse scandal.
The NCAA imposed the penalties in the wake of a report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh that concluded Paterno and other Penn State officials covered up abuse reports. The scandal cost Paterno his job two months before his death last January at age 85.