After an agonizing scandal over former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky’s sex abuse of dozens of children — and over the high-level coverup of his misdeeds — boosters of Penn State football should have just let the university heal. But Pennsylvania’s fan-in-chief, Governor Tom Corbett, hoisted his megaphone this week to reopen the wounds, suing the National Collegiate Athletic Association to vacate the four-year bowl ban and $60 million fine it levied against the university. While acknowledging how terrible the case was, Corbett asserted that the NCAA overstepped its authority in punishing the university’s football program for its role in covering up Sandusky’s offenses. Corbett also claims the penalties inflicted undue economic damage on the state, even though the team still averaged nearly 97,000 fans this season at home games.
It’s true that NCAA rules are generally geared toward preventing recruiting violations and improper gifts to athletes, so its powers in a situation as unprecedented as the Sandusky case are not well defined. But the court of moral opinion was so decisive that in July, Corbett, like most leaders of Penn State, accepted the penalties, calling them part of the “corrective process.” He was right the first time. Six months later, it is too late to claim that the penalties were unfair. Corbett’s lawsuit may score political points with boosters. But critics now wonder where Corbett’s megaphone is for the actual victims of the scandal.