PHILADELPHIA – State officials can pursue their bid to keep Penn State's $60 million fine over the Jerry Sandusky scandal in Pennsylvania, a state court has ruled in a setback for the NCAA.
A panel of Commonwealth Court judges rejected the NCAA's motion to dismiss the case, ruling that Penn State need not be a party to the lawsuit for state officials to pursue it.
The ruling also said that a February state law known as the Endowment Act, which creates a state trust fund to hold such fines, does not violate the July 2012 NCAA consent decree.
That agreement orders that the money be spent on child sexual-abuse programs, but does not give the NCAA control of the funds, the Commonwealth Court said.
"Despite the NCAA's contention, there is nothing in the consent decree which provides for or evidences any obligation that the NCAA is to create the endowment or that the NCAA is to collect the fine," Judge Anne E. Covey wrote for the panel, which voted 6-1 to deny the NCAA's motion to dismiss.
The panel said the agreement dictates only how the money should be spent — not where.
"Given that the consent decree is silent as to who is to control or administer the endowment and is also silent on geographic limitations on the use of the funds, the Endowment Act's impact on (it) is not substantial," Covey wrote.
State Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre, and Treasurer Rob McCord filed suit to ensure the money will be spent within the state rather than throughout the country, although in either case it will be spent on child abuse prevention and for its victims.
Penn State agreed to the penalties a year ago, along with a temporary loss of football scholarships and a four-year ban on post-season play. The first of five $12 million payments has been set aside by Penn State, but not paid to the NCAA.
Sandusky, the school's former assistant football coach, was convicted a year ago of 45 counts of child abuse involving 10 boys. The 69-year-old is serving a 30-to-60-year state prison sentence but maintains his innocence and is pursuing appeals.