The family of late coach Joe Paterno will be joined by former players and others connected to Penn State in a lawsuit that seeks to overturn the NCAA's strict sanctions against the football program for the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.


Joe Paterno (Justin K. Aller, Getty Images)

Paterno family lawyer Wick Sollers says the 40-page suit will be filed today in state court in Centre County, home of Penn State's main campus. He says it will question decisions made by the NCAA leadership in levying penalties that include a four-year bowl ban and steep scholarship cuts.

A statement late Wednesday night from Paterno's representatives indicated the lawsuit also would question the findings of a withering report by former FBI director Louis Freeh, whom the university tapped to lead an investigation into the scandal. The NCAA levied sanctions less than two weeks after Freeh released his report last July.

Statement from the Paterno Family

The family of Joe Paterno and several members of the Penn State Board of Trustees, faculty and former players and coaches will file a lawsuit Thursday [May 30, 2013] against the NCAA and its top leaders seeking to overturn the unlawful sanctions against the University.

The 40-page lawsuit to be filed in Common Pleas Court of Centre County, Penn., asserts that the NCAA, its president, Mark Emmert, and former chairman of the executive committee, Edward Ray, acted in clear and direct violation of the organization's own rules based on a flawed report by former FBI director Louis Freeh. The report on which the NCAA relied for its actions is fundamentally wrong, incomplete and inaccurate, according to the lawsuit. The consent decree with Penn State was hastily imposed on the University, completely disregarding the rights of the affected parties.

“This case is further proof that the NCAA has lost all sense of its mission. If there was ever a situation that demanded meticulous review and a careful adherence to NCAA rules and guidelines, this was it. Instead, the NCAA placed a premium on speed over accuracy and precipitous action over due process,” said Wick Sollers, attorney for those filing the lawsuit.

“An illegally imposed penalty that is based on false assumptions and secret discussions is a disservice to the victims and everyone else who cares about the truth of the Sandusky scandal,” Sollers said. “This matter will never be resolved until the full facts are reviewed in a lawful and transparent manner.”

The lawsuit brought by more than a dozen distinguished members of the Penn State community asserts the NCAA and the other defendants engaged in “unlawful conduct” by breaching their contractual obligations and violating their duties of good faith and fair dealing. The defendants also “intentionally interfered with contractual relations and defamed and/or commercially disparaged” those individuals filing the lawsuit.

“The one thing everyone should agree on is that the Sandusky scandal deserves a thorough, fair and careful review,” Sollers said. “The victims of Sandusky, the community of State College, the Second Mile and everyone associated with Penn State deserve to know the full truth of what happened. The NCAA's actions sought to limit the knowledge of the case and trample the rights of the individuals and institutions that were unfairly and inaccurately blamed by the Freeh report.”

The lawsuit lodges six counts against the NCAA, Emmert and Ray, including breach of contract, civil conspiracy, defamation and commercial disparagement. In addition to overturning the sanctions, the lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages from the NCAA for its improper conduct and breach of contract, as well as reimbursement for legal costs. With respect to the Paterno estate, it will donate the net proceeds of any monetary recovery from this lawsuit to charity.

Participants in the lawsuit from the Penn State community include the family of the late Head Coach Joe Paterno; members of the Penn State Board of Trustees including Ryan McCombie, Anthony Lubrano, Al Clemens, Peter Khoury and Adam Taliaferro; members of the Penn State faculty including Peter Bordi, Terry Engelder, Spencer Niles and John O’Donnell; former Penn State football coaches William Kenney and Jay Paterno; and former Penn State football players, Anthony Adams, Gerald Cadogan, Shamar Finney, Justin Kurpeikis, Richard Gardner, Josh Gaines, Patrick Mauti, Anwar Phillips and Michael Robinson.

Attorneys representing the participants include Wick Sollers, managing partner of King & Spalding’s Washington, D.C., office and Paul Kelly, a partner in Jackson Lewis’ Boston, Mass., office.

The complaint will be available at when it is filed at Common Pleas Court.

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