Former Pennsylvania State University quarterback Michael Robinson heads a group of nine ex-Nittany Lions players and coaches appealing sanctions against the school for its handling of child sex-abuse allegations against one-time assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
Lawyer Paul Kelly of Jackson Lewis LLP sent a letter on behalf of the group to the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Infractions Appeals Committee, saying college sports’ governing body failed to follow its own bylaws and enforcement policies in handing down Penn State’s penalties.
Robinson, who played at Penn State from 2001 to 2005 and is now with the National Football League’s Seattle Seahawks, is appealing the NCAA’s sanctions along with ex-assistant coach Bill Kenney and former players Anwar Phillips (2001-05), Josh Gaines (2004-08), Shamar Finney (1998-2002), Richard Gardner (1999-2003, Gerald Cadogan (2004-08), Anthony Adams (1998-2002) and Justin Kurpeikis (1996-2000).
The group, according to the letter sent to the NCAA, was collectively named in the NCAA’s consent decree entered against Penn State and “directly damaged and harmed” by the sanctions, which included the vacating of all of the football program’s wins from 1998 to 2011.
“The appellants and other involved parties were denied the right to be heard regarding the initial allegations, the factual findings and conclusions contained in the decree, and the sanctions imposed,” according to the letter to the NCAA. “The appellants believe that the only way to support and respect the victims for abuse is for there to be a thorough investigation and fair hearing which seeks the truth, not a rush to judgment designed to put this affair in the past.”
NCAA spokesman Bob Williams said in an e-mail yesterday in response to a similar action by a university trustee that Penn State’s sanctions aren’t subject to review.
The ex-players and coach said many of the NCAA’s findings contained in the consent decree and the report compiled by former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Louis Freeh are “clearly erroneous and not supported by the evidence.” Their letter also says the NCAA’s actions against Penn State were excessive and constitute an abuse of discretion.
The NCAA on July 23 stripped the Penn State football program of 112 victories, taking away the late Joe Paterno’s distinction as the most successful coach in college football history. It also imposed a $60 million fine, took away 20 football scholarships annually for four years, and imposed a four-year bowl ban on the school.
The letter from the former players and coach comes a day after a similar appeal from Penn State Board of Trustees member Ryan McCombie, who accused the NCAA’s infractions committee of handing down “excessive and unreasonable” penalties. Four days ago, a lawyer for the Paterno family informed the NCAA that it was requesting both the opportunity to appeal the penalties in writing and an in-person hearing with the governing body for college athletics.
Freeh’s 267-page report, released two weeks before the NCAA revealed its sanctions, concluded that university officials, including Paterno, failed to protect children from sexual abuse by Sandusky by not reporting him to the police and by continuing to grant him access to the on-campus football building where some of the attacks took place.
Sandusky, 68, an assistant coach at Penn State for 31 years, was convicted last month on 45 criminal counts tied to the abuse of 10 boys over a 15-year period starting in 1994.