Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has filed a lawsuit challenging the National Collegiate Athletic Association over sanctions it imposed on Penn State University in the child sex-abuse scandal that sent former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky to prison. The complaint is belated, bizarre, and self-serving.
Last July, a month after Sandusky’s conviction, Penn State officials agreed to a $60 million fine, a prohibition on postseason play for four years, and the erasure of victories from 1998 to 2011. The NCAA, the governing body for college athletics, offered the deal to allow Penn State to avoid the “death penalty” — suspension of its football program.
When the sanctions were announced, Mr. Corbett said that “part of that corrective process is to accept the serious penalties.” So why is he now asking a federal court to throw them out?
The governor gave two reasons for his delayed response: He wanted to study the matter before filing the lawsuit, and he didn’t want to interfere with football season. The bigger question: Why challenge the sanctions at all?
Mr. Corbett said the NCAA never articulated which rules Penn State broke and had no authority in the scandal, which “was clearly being handled by the justice system.” To the contrary, the NCAA has a duty to improve the attitudes associated with college sports.
It can’t do that if it ignores what happens off the field. The NCAA acquitted itself well by acting decisively and recognizing that the football-first culture that permeated Penn State’s leadership helped allow Sandusky’s heinous acts to go undetected for more than a decade.
The investigation and successful prosecution of Sandusky started during Mr. Corbett’s term as state attorney general. But when he orchestrated his announcement last week before a backdrop of alumni, students, former athletes, and politicians, it was clear the governor was putting on a show for Penn State fans.