Judge Throws Out Corbett’s Antitrust NCAA Lawsuit
U.S District Judge Yvette Kane threw out a lawsuit today against the NCAA filed by Gov. Corbett, ruling that there was “no basis” in antitrust law for the case to move forward. Kane said the NCAA’s arguments were “strong enough to render the Governor’s action under antitrust law a Hail Mary pass.”
“In another forum the complaint’s appeal to equity and common sense may win the day, but in the antitrust world these arguments fail to advance the ball,” Kane wrote.
Corbett’s lawsuit, filed in January on behalf of the Commonwealth, aimed to reverse the harsh NCAA sanctions levied against the Penn State football program last July as a result of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. The NCAA, who by its own admission bypassed its standard investigative process because of the severity of the case, has been criticized by some for using coercive methods in handing down the sanctions.
Corbett challenged those sanctions on an antitrust basis for the economic loss incurred in Pennsylvania, but Kane didn’t buy it.
“Not only do [Corbett’s] allegations of ulterior motive lack the factual enhancement that would allow the Court to accept them as plausible, the Court is still faced with a more pressing problem: the complaint is fundamentally lacking in allegations that [NCAA’]s alleged ulterior motive hid a commercial purpose,” the judge wrote.
Update: Corbett said in a statement that he was disappointed with the ruling and is considering alternative options.
“I am disappointed with the court’s decision and believe that the sanctions have harmed the citizens, students, athletes, alumni and taxpayers of Pennsylvania. Countless individuals and small businesses throughout the state will continue to suffer because of the NCAA’s actions,” he said.
“I feel strongly that the claims we raised in this lawsuit were compelling and these issues deserved a complete and thorough review by the court. I will continue to analyze the ruling with my legal team and review our options.’’
This comes as particularly bad news to Corbett, who many believed was using the NCAA lawsuit to win the support of the many Penn State fans in the state. A Quinnipiac poll released Thursday found that 75 percent of Pennsylvania voters agree the the NCAA sanctions hurt Penn State, while 47 percent of respondents said that the Penn State situation will be important in their vote for governor next year.
“The Governor’s complaint implicates the extraordinary power of a non-governmental entity to dictate the course of an iconic public institution, and raises serious questions about the indirect economic impact of NCAA sanctions on innocent parties,” Kane wrote. “These are important questions deserving of public debate, but they are not antitrust questions.”
NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy released a statement that said the organization is “exceedingly pleased” with the court’s ruling.
“Our hope is that this decision not only will end this case but also serve as a beginning of the end of the divide among those who, like Penn State, want to move forward to put the horror of the Sandusky crimes behind the university and those who want to prolong the fight and with it the pain for all involved,” the statement said.
Corbett’s office has yet to comment on the decision today or whether they intend to appeal.
You can find the entire ruling here.