HARRISBURG, Pa. >> A judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a Pennsylvania senator and the state treasurer over the massive fine imposed on Penn State for its handling of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal.
The NCAA and Penn State had asked Commonwealth Court to dismiss the suit, but Judge Anne Covey refused. Her ruling Friday could pave the way for a trial early next year.
Penn State accepted a $60 million penalty as part of a 2012 consent decree with the NCAA that also imposed a four-year ban on postseason play, a temporary loss of some football scholarships and the elimination of 112 victories from late head coach Joe Paterno.
State Sen. Jake Corman and Treasurer Rob McCord filed the lawsuit to enforce a 2013 state law requiring the NCAA fine to be spent on fighting child abuse in Pennsylvania. The NCAA had intended national distribution of the funds.
In a filing last month, Penn State and the NCAA said the lawsuit was now moot because college sports’ governing body had agreed to allow Pennsylvania to control the fine.
But Covey’s ruling said the NCAA and Penn State were attempting “to usurp the court’s authority.” Commonwealth Court widened the scope of the litigation several months ago, saying it intended to examine the legal validity of the entire consent decree.
“The NCAA and PSU cannot dismiss themselves from litigation by declaring the consent decree valid and simply agreeing to do that which the (state) law already requires,” Covey wrote.
The NCAA’s chief legal officer, Donald Remy, attacked the ruling in a statement that said, “Commonwealth Court has unilaterally and indefinitely delayed distribution” of the fine money.
The NCAA announced last month that it was rolling back most of the penalties and restoring the school’s scholarships and postseason eligibility.