On Wednesday, legal experts weighed in on the lawsuit filed by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett against the NCAA regarding the sanctions it levied on Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, according to Reuters.
When Corbett announced the lawsuit, he received support from many students and alumni of Penn State along with the family of former head coach Joe Paterno. Despite the support, legal experts said that the federal court that will hear the case might issue a ruling that says Pennsylvania does not have enough standing to file the lawsuit.
To make matters tougher for the state, Pennsylvania has to prove that the NCAA penalties levied on Penn State harmed consumers and even constituted a breakdown in the competitive marketplace.
“It’s not a frivolous lawsuit – there are real arguments to make – but, boy, is it weak,” said Max Kennerly. Kennerly is an attorney for the Beasley Firm, which is located in Philadelphia. Kennerly has been intently following the case from day one.
In July, the NCAA handed down rulings that included a $60 million fine and all of the victories for the football from the past 14 seasons were vacated. Both penalties were unprecedented prior to them being announced against Penn State.
The lawsuit filed by Corbett is very distinct since the state of Pennsylvania was not directly affected by the sanctions handed down to Penn State by the NCAA. Corbett filed the lawsuit on behalf of third parties. Those third parties include shopkeepers, stadium workers, hoteliers and other businesses that were hurt as a result of the sanctions from the NCAA.
Gabriel Feldman, a professor from Tulane University Law School, said that the obstacle Corbett faced was “converting what may be real and perhaps significant harm” to the athletes and students at Penn State as well as businesses in the area into an antitrust violation.
“This is an extremely uphill battle for Pennsylvania,” Feldman said.
Matt Millen, a professor from Marquette University Law School and the Director of the National Sports Law Institute, estimated that the NCAA has been sued less than 10 times over the previous five years for antitrust violations. The majority of the lawsuits filed against the NCAA over that span were dismissed or settled because courts typically defer to the NCAA when issues of enforcement of rules arise, according to Millen.
Antitrust lawsuits that were successful in the past against the NCAA involved marketing and licensing because the NCAA has “a stranglehold” on those areas, according to Kennerly.