We are just three days into the new year and we have a strong contender for Dunce of the Year. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) has done the impossible — making the NCAA a sympathetic figure and deepening the horror of the Penn State child-rape scandal. Corbett is suing the NCAA because the penalties imposed on Penn State, which the university accepted in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky child-molestation scandal, are too “harsh.” No, seriously.
The Associated Press reports: “Corbett wants a federal judge to throw out the sanctions, saying they have harmed students, business owners and others who had nothing to do with Sandusky’s crimes against children.” In a rare moment on the moral high ground, the NCAA responded that the suit was “an affront” to the victims and their families. It gets even more depraved:
Penn State said it had no role in the lawsuit. In fact, it agreed not to sue as part of a deal with the NCAA to accept the sanctions, imposed last July after an investigation found that coach Joe Paterno and other top officials covered up sexual-abuse allegations against Sandusky, a former member of Paterno’s staff, for more than a decade in order to shield the university from bad publicity.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday represents an about-face for Corbett. Six months ago, he encouraged Penn State to “accept the serious penalties” imposed by the NCAA.
The deal was highly 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.
Oh, let’s do. It is hard to image a more disgusting political maneuver, one which the good people of the commonwealth should denounce by punting him out of office. (Republicans should think ahead and primary him.) While Penn State is not party to the suit, Corbett is a trustee. He is, therefore (among other things), in an untenable conflict of interest by maintaining a suit on behalf of the university, which presumably has embraced the penalties he now seeks to eradicate. The university should boot him from the board and denounce the suit.
I’ll refrain from weighing in on the merits of the suit, including how the governor gets past the settlement agreement between the NCAA and Penn State and how he gets standing to sue to undo the same. The issue here really is not a legal one but a moral one. There is no penalty that can repair the damage to so many lives and correct the endemic corruption of a university that allowed a child predator to operate for so long. But to challenge whatever penalty was arrived at is hideous. Corbett’s suit is a disgrace, and politicians of both parties should denounce it.