HARRISBURG, Pa. — A federal judge on Thursday threw out the governor’s lawsuit against the NCAA over sanctions against Penn State related to Jerry Sandusky, calling his argument “a Hail Mary pass” that easily warranted dismissal.
U.S. Middle District Judge Yvette Kane’s decision puts an early end to the anti-trust lawsuit Gov. Tom Corbett filed in January in which he sought to overturn a $60 million fine, a four-year bowl ban, scholarship limits and other penalties.
She said she could not “find any factual allegations supporting (Corbett’s) allegation of ‘concerted action’ that might nudge its conspiracy claim into ‘plausible’ territory.”
She said that, even if the penalties make it harder for Penn State to recruit quality football players, that would not make it an anti-trust case.
“The fact that Penn State will offer fewer scholarships over a period of four years does not plausibly support its allegation that the reduction of scholarships at Penn State will result in a market-wide anticompetitive effect, such that the ‘nation’s top scholastic football players’ would be unable to obtain a scholarship in the nationwide market for Division I football players,” Kane wrote.
She said the questions the case raises are important matters of public debate but are not anti-trust grounds.
“In another forum the complaint’s appeal to equity and common sense may win the day, but in the antitrust world these arguments fail to advance the ball,” Kane said.
Penn State, which agreed to the NCAA penalties, was not a party to the case.
Neither a spokesman for Corbett’s general counsel’s office nor the NCAA offered any immediate comment early Thursday.
During arguments last month, the NCAA’s lawyer said the sanctions were not likely to harm the overall market for higher education or for top-flight football players. He said anti-trust law did not apply and that the organization acted to enforce rules about honesty, sportsmanship and conduct.
Sandusky, a former university assistant football coach, is serving a decades-long prison sentence for sexual abuse of 10 boys. He has maintained his innocence.
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