PITTSBURGH — Joe Paterno’s relatives are attempting to rewrite history and ignore reality as they seek to overturn a $60 million fine and other NCAA sanctions against Penn State due to the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal, NCAA attorneys said in asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the late Penn State football coach’s family.
The NCAA’s 64-page response was filed Tuesday in Centre County. It argues the university willingly agreed to sanctions including a temporary postseason ban and scholarship reductions after Sandusky, Paterno’s former defensive coordinator, was convicted of abusing boys, including some incidents at campus football facilities.
Paterno’s family has sued to overturn the sanctions, arguing that Penn State was wrongly forced by the NCAA to accept the penalties that harmed the school, defamed Paterno’s memory and affected the ability of his son and assistant coach, Jay Paterno, and others to find jobs. The NCAA also voided 112 wins from Paterno’s tenure that coincided with Sandusky’s yearslong abuse of the boys, meaning Paterno is no longer recognized as the NCAA’s winningest Division I coach.
The NCAA contends the lawsuit should be thrown out because the sanctions have nothing to do with the Paterno family and have helped the university regain its reputation.
“Plaintiffs do not like this success story because it relies on the history that actually happened, as opposed to the history that they wish happened,” the attorneys wrote.
The Paternos also take issue with the sanctions because they’re based on findings by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, which they’ve disputed. Freeh was hired by the university to conduct an internal investigation.
The NCAA attorneys argue the Paternos wrongly “contend that the NCAA extorted an unwilling Penn State” into accepting the sanctions or that, “perhaps the NCAA and Penn State for some reason conspired together to defame the memory of a beloved coach.”
The family’s argument “ignores reality, including a series of undisputed facts that they cannot try to seriously deny,” the NCAA said.
Among other things, Paterno and university President Graham Spanier were fired by the university. Spanier and two other high-ranking administrators have since been indicted on charges they covered up complaints about Sandusky’s conduct with boys.
The NCAA attorneys note that Paterno testified before a grand jury that Sandusky continued to have access to campus facilities even after Paterno “knew some kind of inappropriate action was being taken by Jerry Sandusky with a youngster” in an on-campus shower.
Sandusky, who is appealing his conviction, is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence. Spanier and the other administrators are awaiting trial.
The Paterno attorneys wrote last month that the NCAA had been “pointing a gun directly in Penn State’s direction” by threatening other sanctions if those already agreed to weren’t carried out.
But the NCAA attorneys contend the Paterno family is asking the court to do something “extraordinary” by voiding a contract that doesn’t involve the Paternos.
The family’s attorney, Wick Sollers, said the latest filing “is an obvious attempt to delay the litigation and obscure the facts,” saying many issues the NCAA raised were decided in January, when the judge allowed much of the lawsuit to go forward.
“We have confidence the full record will expose the NCAA’s unauthorized, unlawful and indefensible actions,” Sollers said.