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Court Questions NCAA Consent Decree

Local lawmakers are calling it a major victory.
BELLEFONTE, CENTRE COUNTY - Local lawmakers are calling it a major victory.

The state's Commonwealth Court ruled Wednesday to dismiss the NCAA's challenge of Senator Jake Corman's 2013 lawsuit, that would keep the $60 million fine imposed by the athletic organization on Penn State for the Jerry Sandusky scandal, in Pennsylvania. They say the Endowment Act is constitutional.

Thursday, Senator Corman said he's glad to see this happen, but even more so to hear the court questioning the consent decree's validity.

The NCAA could have a major fight on its hands after a Commonwealth judge said they didn't have the legal right to force Penn State to sign the consent decree in 2012.

"It's precedent setting," Corman said. "Can the NCAA come in and do this to a university?"

That's the exact question the state's Commonwealth Court is posing. Corman calls it a victory.

"It may not effect Penn State, but it may effect another university some day," he said. "I think it's important we hear this case through."

The court ruled Wednesday the Endowment Act, enacted in 2013, is constitutional.

In her response, Judge Anne Covey writes, "The children harmed by Sandusky, the children's family members, the community, PSU and the Commonwealth were all seeking to uncover the truth behind these hideous crimes when although "ordinarily...not...actionable by the NCAA," the NCAA involved itself in one of the most disastrous events in these children's lives..."

She said the sanctions imposed by the NCAA on Penn State prevent high school athletes, who had no involvement in the scandal, from obtaining a free college education. She writes, "Student-athletes, trainers, coaches, administrators and support personnel who had excelled in their jobs through hard work, practice, commitment, team work, sportsmanship, excellence and perseverance were told none of that mattered."

"I think a lot of people, early on, felt the NCAA out-stepped its bounds," State Representative Kerry Benninghoff, R - Centre County, said.

Benninghoff calls the court's decision a big win, too.

"This is a big win for the community, not only to Centre County, but for those who are the providers in prevention," he said. "I think that's the goal in any of these atrocities, to prevent any of this from happening again."

Penn State is also ordered to become party to the lawsuit. In his opinion, Judge Dan Pellegrini said he's "bewildered" Penn State would enter an agreement with the NCAA on issues that aren't ordinarily actionable by the NCAA.

The university offered no comment Thursday. They have 20 days to respond.

Corman said this is just the beginning of a long road to come.

"It probably won't impact Penn State's case, but still, I think it's important that we follow through to clearly define what the NCAA's powers really are," he said.

While the court is seeking more information about the validity of the consent decree, the NCAA still contends the Endowment Act is a violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution and said it will continue to defend the consent decree.

To read the court's entire opinion, visit this website.
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