STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) - The NCAA overstepped its authority by imposing hefty sanctions on Penn State University in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said Wednesday as he filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against the college athletics governing body.
Corbett said the university and the state have been harmed by what he called "harsh penalties" over the abuse committed by Sandusky, a former assistant football coach. The NCAA "piled on" and acted unlawfully because it stands to benefit from the sanctions, he said.
The 43-page complaint accuses the NCAA of exploiting the Sandusky case, saying its real motives are to "gain leverage in the court of public opinion, boost the reputation and power of the NCAA's president, enhance the competitive position of certain NCAA members, and weaken a fellow competitor."
The NCAA released a statement expressing disappointment with Corbett's action, calling the lawsuit meritless and an "affront" to Sandusky's victims.
At a news conference in a State College hotel, Corbett accused NCAA officials of inserting themselves into an issue over which they had no authority under their bylaws "and one that was clearly being handled by the justice system."
Corbett is asking for a permanent injunction to prevent the NCAA from imposing the sanctions, to which the university agreed in July, as well as costs and legal fees.
The Penn State Board of Trustees issued a statement noting the school was not a party to the lawsuit and played no role in preparing it.
Corbett said he waited until now to file the lawsuit because he wanted to thoroughly research the legal issues and did not want it to interfere with football season.
The university has agreed to pay a $60 million fine for child abuse prevention grants and to endure a four-year bowl game ban for the university's football program, a loss of footballs scholarships and other penalties.
When the deal was announced, Corbett - who is a member of the university's board of trustees - said he wanted assurance tax money would not go toward the fine, and added that part of the "corrective process is to accept the serious penalties."
When the sanctions were announced, Corbett expressed relief that Penn State had escaped the "death penalty" that would have dismantled the football program for a season or more.
The NCAA agreement has been unpopular with a significant portion of the university community, but Corbett, who is up for re-election next year, deflected a question about whether his response has helped or hurt him politically.
"We're not going to get into the politics of this," he said. An outside law firm was being retained to handle the matter, but Corbett's general counsel did not provide an estimate of cost.
"Any of the costs associated with this ... pale in comparison" with the losses people have already suffered, said Corbett's top legal adviser, James Schultz.