bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Governor Tom Corbett sues the NCAA on behalf of Penn State

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An amazing thing happened earlier this week. For the first time since last July, someone in a position of significance stood up for Penn State. Shockingly, it was Pennsylvania’s governor, Tom Corbett, a member of the school’s Board of Trustees who had formerly appeared to be in support of the sanctions. On Wednesday, Corbett, on behalf of the commonwealth, filed a lawsuit against the NCAA, seeking to overturn the devastating sanctions that were levied against the school’s football program in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky pedophilia scandal.

I don’t like the governor even a little bit, and I am sure there is a large element of politics in his motivation to do this, but that does not mean that the suit itself is without merit. Since the moment that I read the Freeh Report last July, I have been baffled by the fact that it was filled with very strong assertions with almost no backing evidence whatsoever. The fact that it was then used by the NCAA as justification for the penalties, with absolutely no other investigation done, was truly mind-boggling. Beyond that, I never for a second believed that the NCAA would penalize Penn State at all, as this was very clearly a criminal matter that had nothing to do with sports and would not fall under the governing body’s purview at all. Despite that, the Nittany Lions were absolutely slammed by unprecedented penalties including a $60 million fine, huge restrictions on scholarships, and the loss of bowl games for four years. Rodney Erickson, the president of Penn State, signed a consent decree agreeing to the sanctions and essentially promising not to sue or contest them. That was one of the hardest parts for me to understand, and the details of that are still unclear. Erickson said that NCAA President Mark Emmert threatened the football program with the death penalty if he did not agree to the other penalties, which, if true, will certainly hurt the NCAA in court.

Corbett appeared to be part of the problem rather than the solution for much of this time. He has now filed this lawsuit, stating that Pennsylvania, as a supplier of taxpayer funds to Penn State, has standing to challenge the sanctions. I have read speculation that the suit could end up challenging the NCAA on anti-trust grounds. Most of the legal opinions I have read seem to like the state’s chances here, as the NCAA clearly went far outside its own processes and bylaws in this case, failing to even state a single one of its rules that Penn State had broken. A lawsuit like this could drag on for years, which could take the resolution beyond the timeframe of the sanctions themselves, so I expect there to be an attempt to get an injunction. A settlement of some kind seems likely.

The worst thing I read this week, among many ignorant responses to this story, was the statement issued by the NCAA itself. It read:

“Not only does this forthcoming lawsuit appear to be without merit, it is an affront to all of the victims in this tragedy — lives that were destroyed by the criminal actions of Jerry Sandusky. While the innocence that was stolen can never be restored, Penn State has accepted the consequences for its role and the role of its employees and is moving forward. Today’s announcement by the governor is a setback to the university’s efforts.”

That made me want to throw up. Really, NCAA? You play the “think about the victims” card here? Let me make this obvious point clear: everyone supports the victims. The suggestion that any questioning of the NCAA’s handling of this case is an attack on the victims is absolutely offensive and insulting. The lawsuit has nothing to do with Sandusky’s victims, and it shouldn’t. It is intended to address an egregious abuse of power on the part of the NCAA and Emmert, who clearly took advantage of the situation to flex its muscles at a time when no one would be willing to question it. After all, who would want to appear to be on the side of a pedophile? I applaud the governor for bringing this suit forth, and I hope that Mark Emmert and the NCAA are held accountable for their actions.

Good Sports, continued:

2) With his team down a point in the fourth quarter of its bowl game against Michigan on Tuesday, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney took things into his own massive hands. Check out this video, in which he bursts through the line and hits the running back just as he gets the ball, knocking off his helmet and forcing a fumble that he himself recovered. Spectacular.

3) The Wildcats of Northwestern won their first bowl game since 1949 on Tuesday, beating Mississippi State, 34-20.

4) Three rookie quarterbacks played in the first round of the NFL playoffs this weekend. Two of them were the first two players taken in last year’s draft. The other is a 5’10″ unheralded guy who was not taken until the third round. Of course, the latter was the one who won and will move on to the next round. Congratulations to Russell Wilson.

5) Peyton Manning capped the regular season of his amazing comeback with his sixth career Offensive Player of the Month award, tying the record held by seven other players.

Bad sports:

1) The Chicago Bears fired head coach Lovie Smith on Monday. I was surprised by this, as the Bears had a 10-6 record this season, although they did miss the playoffs.

2) The Trojans of Southern Cal finished a disastrous season by losing the Sun Bowl to Georgia Tech, 21-7. USC was the preseason number one team, yet finished with a 7-6 record.

3) Anyone who thinks the Michigan Wolverines don’t get preferential treatment from referees should check this out. A first down was granted on a play where even the measurement showed that they were short.

4) Several weeks back, Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was injured during a game against Baltimore. He stayed in the game for several plays after the injury, and head coach Mike Shanahan later stated that Griffin had been cleared to continue by Dr. James Andrews, who was on the team’s sideline at the time. Last week, Andrews disputed that claim, saying he had not even been consulted. Then, on Sunday, the quarterback tweaked his knee again in the first quarter of the ‘Skins playoff game against Seattle. Again he was left in the game, despite the horrendous field conditions. As if on cue, Griffin went down hard, despite being untouched, when trying to pick up a fumble in the fourth quarter. He did not return to the game this time, and his prognosis is still unclear.

5) Royce White, the first-round pick of the Houston Rockets this year, has been suspended by the team for refusing an assignment to the team’s D-League affiliate. White has been dealing with anxiety problems.

6) AC Milan took its squad off the field and ended the game after only thirty minutes of play at Pro Patria after the home fans took up a racist chant.

7) The National Hockey League and the NHL Players’ Association have finally come to an agreement on a contract and hockey will indeed happen this season. Did you notice it was missing?

Bad sports, good sports appears every Monday

Alan Spoll is a software quality assurance director from the suburbs of Philadelphia where he lives with his wonderful wife and children. He has spent his entire life as a passionate fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Flyers, and Penn State. Recent Phillies success aside, you will understand his natural negativity. Follow me on Twitter - @DocAlan02
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