(CNN) — A federal judge in Pennsylvania has dismissed Gov. Tom Corbett’s antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA over its sanctions against Penn State University following the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
U.S. District Judge Yvette Kane called the lawsuit “a Hail Mary pass” in her ruling, even as she expressed some sympathy for Corbett’s arguments. But in the end, she said, the governor’s complaint doesn’t meet the legal standards of an antitrust case.
“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.”
The NCAA levied unprecedented sanctions against the university last July, fining it $60 million and stripping 14 seasons of football victories from late head coach Joe Paterno.
“These sanctions did not punish Sandusky,” or those who allegedly helped cover up his repeated sexual abuse of disadvantaged children, Corbett said at the time.
The NCAA argued that antitrust cases affect commercial activity, while its athletes are amateurs. But Kane said the organization’s actions in the Sandusky case go beyond previous actions “related to amateurism and fair play held to be non-commercial.”
“In another forum,” Kane wrote, Corbett’s “appeal to equity and common sense may win the day. But in the antitrust world these arguments fail to advance the ball.”
Sandusky, 68, was convicted last June on 45 counts of child sex abuse, ranging from corruption of minors to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, which were laid out in graphic testimony by his accusers over the course of the less-than-two-week trial. In October, he was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison, meaning he’ll likely die behind bars.
Paterno, who coached at Penn State for 46 years, was fired after Sandusky’s arrest in November 2011. He had been the all-time leader in major college football victories for a coach, with 409 wins. The NCAA’s decision strikes 111 of those from his record, beginning in 1998 — a move that posthumously bumps him from the top of the list.
A university-funded review of the scandal, led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, accused former university president Graham Spanier, Paterno, suspended Athletic Director Tim Curley and ex-Vice President Gary Schultz of taking part in a cover-up to avoid bad publicity.
The scandal led to Spanier’s ouster and shocked the nation after Freeh’s team concluded that the school’s top administrators had “empowered” Sandusky, the former defensive coordinator for the football team, to continue his abuse.
The school’s $60 million fine is expected to be paid over five years and will fund an endowment with a mission of fighting child sex abuse and supporting victims.