Paterno family to appeal NCAA sanctions against Penn State
The late Joe Paterno, former head coach of Penn State / Rick Stewart /Allsport
(CBS/AP) STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Joe Paterno's family plans to appeal the sanctions imposed by the NCAA against Penn State for the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal.
Family lawyer Wick Sollers in a letter sent Friday to the NCAA said the Paternos would like to appeal the "enormous damage" to Penn State, the community, athletes and the late Hall of Fame coach. He died in January at age 85.
An NCAA spokeswoman did not immediately return a call seeking comment on whether college sports' governing body would consider such an appeal.
The landmark NCAA penalties handed down last month included a four-bowl ban, scholarship cuts and 111 vacated wins from 1998-2011, meaning Paterno no longer has the most coaching victories in major college football. The program was also fined $60 million and had to reduce their number of football scholarships from 25 to 15 per year for the next four years.
A Penn State spokesman said the school narrowly avoided a four-year ban from playing football, which would have been a "death penalty" for their program. Previous school programs, for example Southern Methodist University, that have been banned have never recovered from the punishment. NCAA president Mark Emmert said on "CBS This Morning" that a Penn State ban would have negatively affected "too many people that had utterly nothing to do with these affairs."
NCAA also gave Penn State players the option to transfer immediately and play for another school this upcoming season. Star tailback Silas Redd left for the University of Southern California. Backup safety Tim Buckley also left for North Carolina State.
A Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times poll of Pennsylvanians showed that 44 percent of respondents thought the penalties were too severe.
The family said the NCAA acted hastily and without regard for due process, and that it accepted the results of the school's internal investigation without further review.
The report from former FBI director Louis Freeh said Paterno and three school officials concealed allegations against Sandusky dating back to 1998. Paterno's family and the three officials have all vehemently denied the conclusions.
Once a revered defensive coordinator, Sandusky is awaiting sentencing in jail after being convicted in June of 45 counts of sexually abusing young boys.
Penn State handed the Freeh report to the NCAA, which announced its strict sanctions on July 23. Also among the penalties was a $60 million fine.
Paterno's lawyer said the family had a right to file an appeal because it was named in the NCAA's consent decree with Penn state, as well as the Freeh report. The family said it hoped to formally submit an appeal and requested oral arguments before the NCAA's infractions appeal committee, its executive committee or other leaders.
"Furthermore, the NCAA and Penn State's Board (of Trustees) Chair and President entirely ignored the fact that the Freeh Report, on which these extraordinary penalties are based, is deeply flawed because it is incomplete, rife with unsupported opinions and unquestionably one-sided," Sollers wrote the NCAA.
Sollers called the sanctions possibly "the most important disciplinary action in the history of NCAA," but that it had been handled fundamentally inappropriate and unprecedented manner.
Michael McCann, director of the Sports Law Institute and at a professor at Vermont Law School, said Friday he doubts that the Paternos do have legal standing to appeal, and that the NCAA is likely to reject it out of hand, if they respond at all.
"He's not alive, and his family itself would not seem to have any legal standing to challenge the NCAA," McCann said, "at least in terms of filing an appeal."
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