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Pa. governor sues NCAA over Penn State sanctions

Pa. governor sues NCAA over Penn State sanctions

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) Pennsylvania's governor, in a challenge to the NCAA's powers, claimed in a lawsuit Wednesday that college sports' governing body overstepped its authority and ``piled on'' when it penalized Penn State over the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal.

Gov. Tom Corbett asked that a federal judge throw out the sanctions, which include an unprecedented $60 million fine and a four-year ban on bowl games, arguing that the measures have harmed students, business owners and others who had nothing to do with Sandusky's crimes.

``A handful of top NCAA officials simply inserted themselves into an issue they had no authority to police under their own bylaws and one that was clearly being handled by the justice system,'' Corbett said at a news conference.

The case, filed under federal antitrust law, could define just how far the NCAA's authority extends. Up to now, the federal courts have allowed the organization broad powers to protect the integrity of college athletics.

In a statement, the NCAA said the lawsuit has no merit and called it an ``affront'' to Sandusky's victims.

Penn State said it had no role in the lawsuit. In fact, it agreed not to sue as part of the deal with the NCAA accepting the sanctions, which were imposed in July after an investigation found that football coach Joe Paterno and other top officials hushed up sexual-abuse allegations against Sandusky, a former member of Paterno's staff, for more than a decade for fear of bad publicity.

The penalties include a cut in the number of football scholarships the university can award and a rewriting of the record books to erase 14 years of victories under Paterno, who was fired when the scandal broke in 2011 and died of lung cancer a short time later.

The lawsuit represents a reversal by the governor. When Penn State's president consented to the sanctions last summer, Corbett, a member of the Board of Trustees, embraced them as part of the university's effort to repair the damage from the scandal.

Corbett said he waited until now to sue over the ``harsh penalties'' because he wanted to thoroughly research the legal issues and did not want to interfere with the football season.

The deal with the NCAA has been unpopular with many fans, students and alumni. Corbett, who is up for re-election next year, deflected a question about whether his response has helped or hurt him politically.

``We're not going to get into the politics of this,'' he said.

An alumni group, Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, applauded the lawsuit but said Corbett should have asked questions when the NCAA agreement was made.

``If he disapproved of the terms of the NCAA consent decree, or if he thought there was something illegal about them, why didn't he exercise his duty to act long before now?'' the group said.

Paterno's family members said in a statement that they were encouraged by the lawsuit. Corbett ``now realizes, as do many others, that there was an inexcusable rush to judgment,'' they said.

Corbett's lawsuit accuses the NCAA of cynically exploiting the Sandusky case, saying its real motives were to ``gain leverage in the court of public opinion, boost the reputation and power of the NCAA's president'' and ``enhance the competitive position of certain NCAA members.'' It said the NCAA has not cited a rule that Penn State broke.

Corbett charged that the NCAA violated the Sherman Antitrust Act, which prohibits agreements that restrain interstate commerce. Legal experts called it an unusual case whose outcome is difficult to predict.

The NCAA has faced antitrust litigation before, with a mixed record of success. In 1984, the Supreme Court ruled against the NCAA's exclusive control over televised college football games. And in 1998, the Supreme Court let stand a ruling that said the NCAA's salary cap for some assistant coaches was unlawful price-fixing.

But federal courts have consistently rejected antitrust challenges to NCAA rules and enforcement actions designed to preserve competitive balance, academic integrity and amateurism in college athletics.

In this case, the courts might not be as sympathetic to the NCAA, said Matthew Mitten, director of the National Sports Law Institute at Marquette University Law School.

``It's difficult to justify the sanctions as necessary to protect the amateur nature of college sports, preserve competitive balance or maintain academic integrity,'' he said.

Joseph Bauer, an antitrust expert at the University of Notre Dame law school, said of Corbett's line of reasoning: ``I don't think it's an easy claim for them to make, but it's certainly a viable claim.''

Sandusky, 68, was convicted in June of sexually abusing 10 boys, some of them on Penn State's campus. He is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence but insists he's innocent.

Michael Boni, a lawyer for one of Sandusky's accusers, said he does not consider the lawsuit an affront. But he said he hopes Corbett takes a leading role in pushing for changes to state child-abuse laws.

``I really question who he's concerned about in this state,'' Boni said.

Michael Desmond, a businessman who appeared with Corbett at the news conference, said business at his five State College eating establishments was down about 10 percent during Penn State home game weekends this year.

``The governor's actions are going to be immensely popular with all Penn State alumni,'' Desmond said.

Corbett, a Republican, said his office did not coordinate its legal strategy with state Attorney General-elect Kathleen Kane, who is scheduled to be sworn in Jan. 15. Instead, the current attorney general, Linda Kelly, granted the governor authority to pursue the matter.

Kane, a Democrat, ran on a vow to investigate why it took prosecutors nearly three years to charge Sandusky. Corbett was attorney general when his office took over the case in 2009.

Kane had no comment on the lawsuit because she was not consulted about it by Corbett's office.

State and congressional lawmakers have objected to use of the NCAA fine to finance child-abuse prevention efforts in other states. Penn State has already made the first $12 million payment, and an NCAA task force is deciding how it should be spent.

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Associated Press writers Peter Jackson in Harrisburg and Michael Rubinkam contributed.

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How to watch Capitals vs. Maple Leafs NHL 20 simulation and Caps' chippy Nov. 18 win over Ducks

How to watch Capitals vs. Maple Leafs NHL 20 simulation and Caps' chippy Nov. 18 win over Ducks

The Capitals’ simulated season continues on Tuesday night when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs in NHL 20, aired on NBC Sports Washington. Real-life Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin will be on the call.

In a partnership with Monumental Sports Network, NBCSW is airing all Wizards and Capitals games in simulated NBA 2K20 and NHL 20 games, taking place on the dates and times according to each team's regular season schedule with commentary from NBCSW's experts surrounding the coverage.

After the game wraps up, NBCSW will reair the Caps’ physical Nov. 18 affair with the Anaheim Ducks. Richard Panik scored his first goal in a Washington uniform and Garnet Hathaway was ejected after exchanging more than just blows in a fight with several Ducks.

Here’s how you can catch both games Tuesday night.

Broadcast Schedule

7:00 PM – NHL 20: Toronto Maple Leafs @ Capitals (P)

8:00 PM – NHL Classics: Anaheim Ducks @ Capitals from Nov. 18, 2019 (R)

10:30 PM – NHL 20: Toronto Maple Leafs @ Capitals (R)

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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How Ben Olsen is coaching D.C. United during coronavirus quarantine

How Ben Olsen is coaching D.C. United during coronavirus quarantine

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the MLS season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen is working to find his way in the face of massive changes to the day-to-day life of so many around the world.

"The priority right now with the group that we have is to maintain a level of fitness," Olsen said on a conference call with local reporters this morning. "All we can do right now is follow the guidelines given by MLS."

Even though the team is not able to meet face-to-face like they normally would, Olsen and his staff have had to get creative in ways to continue to build team chemistry and make sure everyone is on the same page.

"We have a once-a-week call with everyone on a Zoom chat with the trainers," he said. "We talk about things like social media and how to stay connected to fans, the programs we are sending out and we get feedback from [the players] on what is going well."

Dealing with the pandemic has been especially challenging for players from overseas, who might not have the same support systems that those longtime MLS players have in the area. The club is making a particular point to reach out to those players.

D.C. United and its staff are also making sure that all of the club’s players are able to partake in individualized training to keep a level of fitness, even if that means getting some workout equipment to players who might not have it where they live.

As new challenges arise and are met, Olsen is trying to keep a positive mindset and joked that he now has the time to be a better husband and father than he normally would at the start of a new season.

"There’s this underlying positivity that again I feel very, very lucky because of the scenario I’m in," the head coach noted. "I’m also constantly thinking about others that are not in the situation I’m in. Whether it’s the EMTs, the firemen, the D.C. support system, our medical doctors, so many people on the frontlines that are doing so much and putting their lives in danger right now. I make sure we as a family are constantly reminding our children that there’s a lot of people out there doing some great things in a very, very tough time."

When asked what he misses most about what would be the end of the opening month of the MLS season, Olsen stated that he misses the locker room and being with his players.

"Dealing with the ups and downs of a season, dealing with the journey of the season," he said. "It’s a special thing that we have and I think in some ways you have to lose it to appreciate it. Right now I miss being in that locker room, I miss the guys, I miss my staff."

While no one knows yet when the season will return, Olsen is "very bullish and optimistic" that MLS will recover quickly.

"Of course the league will take a hit, just like every other league and every other business across this country," Olsen said. "This league will be just fine when we get through this, just like our country will be just fine."