The hockey game went into overtime, so have another cup of coffee. You’ve earned it. Costas wound up getting bumped back to 11:40, so you struggled to stay awake. (Not I — I was still wound up from a tight, hotly contested hockey game that was almost ruined by a controversial referee’s call in the waning moments of regulation time. In the end, though, that call was mitigated by the winning goal being scored by Chicago in overtime. But I digress.)
If you were hoping that the great, albeit diminutive, god of sports journalism was going to take a pro-Penn State stand, you were grossly disappointed by Costas stating that he was moderating, not advocating:
“…when word got out that we’d be doing this program, some might have thought that we would be taking an advocacy position. We are not.”
He went on to say that the program couldn’t cover the subject with any degree of depth and then pointed viewers who wanted more detail to web sites where they could obtain the Freeh report and the Paterno/Sollers report. Costas made it clear that the viewpoints to be presented on his show would be one collection of opinions expressed by the Paterno family, as represented by Dan McGinn, Dick Thornburgh, and Wick Sollers, not necessarily endorsed by him or NBC Sports. He would allow them to present their case without hostile questioning.
Well, geez! What about all the crap about Costas changing his mind and having misgivings about the Freeh report? That must have evaporated somewhere between the Kevin Slaten radio show and the offices of the NBC corporate counsel. Probably closer to the latter. Nope. Don’t want NBC involved in endless court cases. Be neutral, Bob. Be neutral.
Well, that took the wind out of lots of sails — wayward ships of fools hoping that Costas would set them on a straight course to maritime nirvana or something. (I’m so full of shit this morning.) In any case, much of what would be laid out on this program amounted to tedious repetition of stuff we already knew.
Costas did mention that he invited Mark Emmert and Louis Freeh to appear, but they declined. They have an open invitation from Costas to make fools out of themselves at any time. That ain’t gonna happen. He said that had they shown up, the questioning would have been quite different, indeed becoming a point and counterpoint discussion. Gloriosky, Bob! Woulda, coulda, shoulda! The saddest four words of thought or pen: what might have been.
And so, with the groundwork laid, each of the players stepped up to the plate and took a few swings. The discussion went on for a while, touching on areas of which we are all aware. (If you’re new to this whole thing, you’re in the wrong place. Like Costas, I won’t be discussing particulars of the Freeh report or the Paterno report. We’ve beaten that necrotic horse repeatedly here. I’m concerned only with what went down last night, and most of it was not new ground.)
The newsworthy event of last night, for which we were well prepared by afternoon leaks, was the announcement by Paterno family attorney Wick Sollers that the the family, joined by certain others, would be filing a lawsuit against the NCAA to vacate its draconian sanctions against Penn State that were based solely on the flawed results of the Freeh report, claiming “unlawful conduct” by the NCAA.
The suit will be filed today in Common Pleas Court of Centre County. It 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. The consent decree with Penn State was hastily imposed on the University, completely disregarding the rights of the affected parties.
“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 co-plaintiffs in the suit are worthy of note. Aside from the Paterno family, trustees Ryan McCombie, Anthony Lubrano, Al Clemens, Peter Khoury, and Adam Taliaferro; along with PSU faculty members Peter Bordi, Terry Engelder, Spencer Niles, and John O’Donnell; plus former Penn State football coaches Bill Kenney and JayPa; and finally, former Nittany Lions Anthony “Spice” Adams, Gerald Cadogan, Shamar Finney, Justin Kurpeikis, Rich Gardner, Josh Gaines, Patrick Mauti, Anwar Phillips, and Mike Robinson.
Also worthy of note is that the suit names Mark Emmert and Edward Ray as co-defendants.
The official media release issued by McGinn’s firm states:
The lawsuit lodges six counts against the NCAA, Emmert and Ray, including breech 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.
The family’s official position is that they’re not primarily seeking to restore Joe Paterno’s good name and reputation, which have been immutably tarnished by the Sandusky scandal. Instead, they are seeking truth and justice for all. Obviously, they’re not interested in the money if they’re going to give their winners’ share to charity. But beyond the official position, the family (and most of us) want redemption for Paterno.
When Costas asked McGinn if the family would be happy if the public opinion eventually shifted to paint Paterno as a good man who lived the right way but who became negligent in later years and should have been more proactive in dealing with Sandusky, the response from McGinn was a flat “No.” He went on to say that Joe was a moral man who was fooled by an “incredibly sophisticated criminal”. Clearly, as family spokesman, McGinn is seeking complete exoneration for Paterno.
Wick Sollers opined that the NCAA would do anything within its powers and budget to keep this case from going to trial because discovery would be painful. That’s the crux and that’s why we’re all licking our chops thinking of the veritable feast that lies ahead if either this case or Corbett’s suit (or both) are allowed by the courts to proceed. The NCAA has the money and the legal talent to conduct a withering battle, though. It ain’t going to be easy.
No doubt, the NCAA will point out over and over again that Penn State (in the personage of Rod Erickson) signed a consent decree, laying itself at the NCAA’s feet crying mea maxima culpa. The Sollers suit will counter that with the notion that the consent decree was a midnight “cram-down”, signed under duress and under the threat of complete shutdown of the football program for a period of time, which violated the NCAA’s own rules. We are already quite familiar with the arguments on both sides of that debate.
Who knows where this will go. Given the NCAA’s ability to outspend its opponents, we could be dealing with years of legal bullshit. Many important facts will arise out of the criminal cases against Spanier, Curley, and Schultz, but will they have any bearing on this lawsuit (or Corbett’s)? The NCAA will wear us down. Eventually, passion will fade and this whole thing will become just so much background noise. We might have to be content to dent Mark Emmert’s impervious shell, rather than vaporize it.
The suit will be filed today. Here it is.