Penn State Football: What the Trustee's Lawsuit Could Mean for Program

Joshua AllenContributor IIAugust 6, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JULY 23: NCAA president Mark Emmert (L) speaks as Ed Ray, chairman of the NCAA's executive committee and Oregon State president looks on, during a press conference at the NCAA's headquarters to announce sanctions against Penn State University's football program on July 23, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The sanctions are a result of a report that the university concealed allegations of child sexual abuse made against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who was found guilty on 45 of 48 counts related to sexual abuse of boys over a 15-year period. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

When the news first started spreading of Jerry Sandusky's indiscretions, many believed that Penn State should face some sort of penalty for allowing a monster to abuse his affiliation with the program for his evil gains.

The NCAA agreed with this viewpoint, and following the release of the Freeh Report, decided that it was time that they should do all in their power to ensure that a situation like this never occurred at another NCAA school ever again. The base assumption that the NCAA made in filing these penalties was that allowing Sandusky to continue his actions showed a lack of institutional control.

Now that the background has been covered, let's examine exactly why the four trustees involved are bringing a lawsuit. They claim that due process was not awarded by the NCAA, that the Freeh Report was not meant as an official investigation and that the NCAA has no right to extol these punishments on their members. For better, or for worse, these claims are non-factual.

To see the legal precedent, look back a mere twenty years and see the Supreme Court case NCAA v. Tarkanian. Reading through the legal summaries, the parallels between that case and this one are extraordinary.

Jerry Tarkanian, the coach of UNLV men's basketball, filed the lawsuit in response to punishments incurred by illegal recruiting. In his defense, his lawyer's stated that due process wasn't awarded to the investigation of Tarkanian's recruiting, and that the NCAA's specific punishment of Tarkanian violated state and federal antitrust laws.

In response, the Supreme Court replied that the NCAA was an independent organization, that they were not under the jurisdiction of laws regarding due process and that the NCAA had full rights to punish members who agreed to join their organization. In regards to antitrust allegations, the Supreme Court stated that any school that wanted to could quit the NCAA and join other organizations such as the NAIA.

Thus, it can be seen that the trustee's lawsuit has no real legal footing and will most likely fail. Now to get to the purpose of this article: what does this mean for the Penn State football program?

Most likely, and hopefully, it means nothing for PSU. The lawsuit will fail and the sanctions will hold. However, the trustee's should tread lightly. The NCAA has maintained that any lawsuits, such as this one could lead to a four-year death penalty.

While I hope that this isn't the case, it could happen.

Additionally, if the NCAA decided that Penn State had become more trouble to the NCAA then they are worth, a simple majority vote of university presidents could expel Penn State forever from the NCAA. These are the same university presidents who fully supported a four-year death penalty and might back a motion to destroy Penn State's total athletic program.

In conclusion, the NCAA had full rights as an independent organization to punish a member institution. There is no legal background that gives the trustee's lawsuit any bearing and it is unlikely to gain any steam.

So, it would probably be best to just quit the arguing and allow the current sanctions to take effect, rather than trying to provoke the NCAA and allow for something far, far worse.