The NCAA's scheduled trial over the legality of sanctions handed down to Penn State after the Jerry Sandusky scandal will continue after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled against the organization on Wednesday.
According to The Associated Press, the court rejected the NCAA's argument that a lower court judge didn't have the authority to expand the scope of the lawsuit.
In July 2012, the NCAA presented a consent decree to Penn State, which the university accepted, that penalized the school for the Jerry Sandusky scandal, in which the longtime Penn State assistant football coach was convicted on 45 counts of sex abuse earlier that year. Sanctions included the vacating of all wins from 1998 to 2011, scholarship restrictions, a postseason ban and a $60 million fine, which was to go towards programs to help prevent child abuse.
The suit against the NCAA, brought by Pennsylvania state senator Jake Corman in January 2013, sought to ensure that the entirety of the $60 million was spent on programs within the state of Pennsylvania. The NCAA planned to use just 25 percent of the fine within Pennsylvania.
In April of this year, the Commonwealth Court ruled that the state law on which Corman's lawsuit was based was constitutional, approving the argument that the money should stay in the state, but also ruled that the consent decree itself was subject to examination.
The NCAA has since agreed to spend the entire amount within the state and argued that made the case moot. However, based on the Commonwealth Court's ruling, the scheduled January trial will continue and will examine whether the NCAA had the legal right to impose the sanctions at all. The Supreme Court affirmed Wednesday that the trial should continue.
Internal e-mails released Wednesday as part of Corman's lawsuit show high-ranking NCAA officials debating whether they had the authority to penalize Penn State since the Sandusky scandal involved criminal matters and not necessarily any athletic competitive advantage.
Several officials also made reference to the fact that Penn State could accept the consent decree without considering whether the NCAA had proper authority, with one official terming the decree a "bluff."
In response to the release of the e-mails, the NCAA said it "carefully examined its authority and responsibility" in the matter before presenting the sanctions.
Earlier this fall, the NCAA restored Penn State's postseason eligibility and lifted its scholarship restrictions because of how the program and university have responded since the punishment was handed down. The scholarship restrictions had been lessened last year for the same reason.
Sandusky is currently serving 30 to 60 years in prison.
- Ben Estes