NCAA rebuffs Paterno family appeal

Posted: August 05, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Joe Paterno's family said it planned to appeal the sanctions the NCAA imposed against Pennsylvania State University over the Jerry Sandusky child-sex-abuse scandal. The college sports governing body's response: Don't bother.

Family lawyer Wick Sollers wrote Friday to the NCAA that the Paternos would like to appeal the "enormous damage" done to Penn State, the community, athletes, and the late Hall of Fame coach. Paterno died in January at 85.

But the NCAA quickly rejected the proposal. "The Penn State sanctions are not subject to appeal," spokesman Bob Williams said.

The landmark penalties last month included a four-year ban on bowl-game appearances by the university football team, scholarship cuts, and 111 vacated wins from 1998 through 2011, meaning Paterno no longer has the most coaching victories in major college football.

The family said that 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 to 1998.

Paterno's family and the three officials have denied the conclusions.

Sandusky awaits sentencing; he was convicted in June on 45 counts of sexually abusing boys.

The NCAA announced the sanctions on July 23. Among the penalties was a $60 million fine.

The school accepted the sanctions and signed off on a consent decree. University president Rodney Erickson said he saw no better option because the threat of the "death penalty" - shutting down the football program for at least a year - was hanging over the school.

A Penn State spokesman declined to comment Friday on the Paterno family's intent to appeal.

The Paternos' lawyer said the family had a right to appeal because it was named in the NCAA's consent decree and 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.

Sollers wrote that "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."

He called the sanctions possibly the most important disciplinary action in the history of the NCAA and said the organization had handled the situation in a fundamentally inappropriate and unprecedented manner.

Michael McCann, director of the Sports Law Institute and a professor at Vermont Law School, said Friday he doubted that the Paternos had standing to appeal.

"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."

Associated Press writer Mark Scolforo in Harrisburg contributed to this article.

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