Lawyer: Paterno lawsuit differs

STATE COLLEGE – The lawsuit filed against the NCAA by the family of the late coach Joe Paterno has claims and legal theories different from the lawsuit filed by Pennsylvania’s governor that was thrown out by a federal judge, the family’s attorney said Thursday.

Also, a lawyer for the former players, five trustees and other plaintiffs who joined the family’s case said he didn’t think the dismissal of Gov. Tom Corbett’s antitrust lawsuit would hurt their case.

A judge on Thursday called Corbett’s antitrust lawsuit to overturn the NCAA sanctions against Penn State “a Hail Mary pass” that warranted dismissal. The strict penalties including a four-year bowl ban and steep scholarship cuts were levied in response to the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Paterno’s family last week sued the NCAA over the sanctions and its use of former FBI Director Louis Freeh’s scathing findings on the scandal for the school. The university itself is not a party in that lawsuit, as it was in Corbett’s complaint.

“The lawsuit filed by Governor Corbett and the Paterno family and various affected parties are separate exercises with significantly different claims and legal theories,” family attorney Wick Sollers said in a statement.

Attorney Paul Kelly, who represents non-Paterno family plaintiffs in the case, said he was encouraged by a passage in U.S. Middle District Judge Yvette Kane’s ruling in the Corbett case. He noted that the judge questioned whether Corbett’s claims might be more successful if raised from another angle rather than as an antitrust case.

The NCAA said it was “exceedingly pleased” with Kane’s ruling and hoped it would help heal divisions caused by the scandal.

But Sollers said the NCAA message to victims, the university community and “those wrongfully blamed by the Freeh report is that speed and secrecy are more important than truth and transparency.” He called on the NCAA to release all materials and communications related to the sanctions.

Freeh accused Paterno and three ex-school officials of covering up allegations against Sandusky. Paterno died in January 2012. His family and the officials have vehemently denied taking part in a cover-up.

Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach, is serving a prison sentence for multiple convictions on child sex abuse charges.