The family of late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno has notified the NCAA that it intends to appeal the harsh penalties that were leveled against the Nittany Lion program.
In a document notifying the NCAA of the intent to appeal, the Paterno family says it is doing so to redress the enormous damage done to Penn State, the State College community, former, current and future students and student athletes, Joe Paterno and certain others involved, as a result of the unprecedented actions taken by the NCAA.
The notice of intent to appeal was drafted by the law firm King & Spalding LLP of Washington, D.C., and sent via overnight delivery to the NCAA.
According to the Associated Press, Friday evening NCAA spokesman Bob Williams said, "The Penn State sanctions are not subject to appeal." But as of this writing, the NCAA had yet to release an official response the notice of intent to appeal.
The NCAA handed down what it described as unprecedented sanctions against the Penn State football program July 23, stemming from the school's handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. Penalties include a four-year postseason ban, the loss of 10 scholarships per year for four years, a $60 million fine and the ability of current PSU players to transfer to other FBS schools and be eligible to complete immediately.
Penn State also had to vacate all of its wins from 1998 to 2011, which knocked Paterno from atop major college football's all-time victories list.
The NCAA admitted it conducted no formal investigation into Penn State's handling of the Sandusky scandal, but rather relied solely on the finding the Freeh Report — which had been commissioned by the school's Board of Trustees — when deciding on punishments. The sanctions were handed down in the form of a consent decree that was signed by NCAA president Mark Emmert and Penn State president Rodney Erickson.
So Penn State accepted the sanctions. Erickson later said he did so in part because the football program could have faced the NCAA's so-called death penalty had a conventional NCAA investigation taken place.
The Paterno family says its intent to appeal is based on an NCAA bylaw that qualifies Joe Paterno as an involved individual because he is named in the NCAA's consent decree as well as the Freeh report, which provides the alleged factual basis for the consent decree.
The family accused the NCAA of acting hastily and without any regard for due process. It also called the Freeh Report, deeply flawed because it is incomplete, rife with unsupported opinions and unquestionably one-sided.
Through its attorneys, the family said it is hoping for a prompt reply from the NCAA because of the gravity of the issue.
This matter may be the most important disciplinary action in the history of the NCAA, and it has been handled in a fundamentally inappropriate and unprecedented manner, the letter said. To severely punish a University and its community and to condemn a great educator, philanthropist and coach without any public review or hearing is unfair on its face and a violation of NCAA guidelines.
Joe Paterno coached Penn State from 1966-2011. He was fired last November shortly after the Sandusky scandal broke and died of lung cancer in January.
Below you will find the letter from the Paterno family to the NCAA, published verbatim. FOS received a copy of the letter Friday afternoon.
To Whom It May Concern:
On behalf of my clients, the Paterno family, who are the living representatives of Joseph V. Paterno and his estate, we file this notice of intent to appeal the NCAA's consent decree entered against The Pennsylvania State University. Pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 32.10.1, the Paterno Family notes that the consent decree was publicly released on July 23, 2012. Pursuant to NCAA Bylaws 32.1.5 and 188.8.131.52, Mr. Paterno qualifies as an involved individual because he is named in the NCAA's consent decree as well as the Freeh report, which provided the alleged factual basis for the consent decree. Finally, pursuant to NCAA Bylaw 32.10.1, the Paterno family requests the opportunity to submit its appeal in writing, and it requests an in-person oral argument before the Infractions Appeals Committee.
The estate undertakes this appeal to redress the enormous damage done to Penn State, the State College community, former, current and future student and student athletes, Joe Paterno and certain others involved, as a result of the unprecedented actions taken by the NCAA.
As will become evident in a thorough and impartial review, the NCAA acted hastily and without any regard for due process. Furthermore, the NCAA and Penn State's Board Chair and President entirely ignored the fact that the Freeh Report, on which these extraordinary penalties are based, is deeply flawed because it is incomplete, rife with unsupported opinions and unquestionably one-sided. The NCAA and Penn State's leadership, by accepting and adopting the conclusions of the Freeh report, have maligned all of the above without soliciting contrary opinions or challenging a single finding of the Freeh report. Given the extraordinary penalty handed out, prudence and justice require that scrupulous adherence to due process be observed and not completely ignored.
Both the University leadership and the NCAA have said that they had to take extreme and immediate measures to demonstrate respect for the victims and minimize the chance of any similar misconduct from occurring again. These goals are the right ones, and they embody objectives we fully endorse. But those objectives cannot be achieved by a truncated process that wrongly assigns blame by substituting opinion for fact.
If there is culpabability in this case, a hearing will help expose it. Due process will not hide the truth and will only illuminate the facts and allow for thoughtful, substantiated conclusions, not extreme and unfounded opinions, such as those offered in the Freeh Report and relied upon by the NCAA.
This matter may be the most important disciplinary action in the history of the NCAA, and it has been handled in a fundamentally inappropriate and unprecedented manner. To severely punish a University and its community and to condemn a great educator, philanthropist and coach without any public review or hearing is unfair on its face and a violation of NCAA guidelines.
Accordingly, we submit this appeal in pursuit, finally, of due process. A fair hearing on the merits is in the interests of justice and fairness for all involved.
We look forward to your acknowledgement of receipt of this timely appeal. In your acknowledgement, we would appreciate confirmation of the exact date triggering the 30-day period for us to submit a written response in support of our appeal.
J. Sedwick Sollers III