On June 6, 2013, Judge Yvette Kane dismissed the Commonwealth (Corbett's) lawsuit against the NCAA, stating, "Each of the [the NCAA's] arguments is strong enough to render the governor's action under anti-trust law a Hail Mary pass."
I used the same "Hail Mary" description when I wrote about the governor's meeting with the former players back in January. My reference was a bit different, however, as it was about the Governor's attempt to win back favor with the PSU fan base and PA's voters.
Anyone who believed Corbett's motivation was anything but political was fooling themselves.
The lawsuit was not about doing the right thing or about finding the truth. The lawsuit was clear in continuing to place the blame for enabling Sandusky's crimes on former PSU officials Graham Spanier, Gary Schultz, and Tim Curley. And the lawsuit made a hollow attempt - by keeping fines in the Commonwealth - at improving the state's failing child protection system.
The lawsuit did, however, give those whose primary concern is PSU football some hope about fighting the NCAA and voiding the sanctions. It was a fight the PSU BOT was unwilling to take on and for the matter of months the lawsuit was active, one could say Corbett was doing more for PSU than it's own BOT (of which, ironically, he is a member).
What will Corbett do next?Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship (PS4RS) urged the governor and his appointees to the BOT to join the small group of trustees who have taken up the fight against the Freeh Report. PS4RS noted that with the addition of Corbett, his appointees, and the three newly elected alumni trustees, there would be a majority of trustees who stood in opposition to the Freeh Report.
There is little chance of that happening.
Corbett identified and recommended Louis Freeh to perform the sham investigation of the Sandusky scandal. He praised Kenneth "OJ" Frazier for his leadership of the Special Investigations Task Force (SITF) and stated that Frazier had put together a team "on behalf of the administration" that was good. For the record, the SITF included such stalwarts as Mark Dambly (who has a criminal record), Keith Eckel (who didn't graduate from college), Ronald J. Tomalis (who denied a contract existed for the Freeh investigation), and Karen Peetz (whose made contradictory statements about the purpose of the Freeh Report). Corbett considers these people as a "good team," thus it's pretty clear whose side he is on.
However, always looming in the back of Corbett's head is the fact that the purpose for bringing in Freeh was to cover-up for the Commonwealth's (DPW and CYS) failure to bring Sandusky to justice in 1998. There is no way Corbett wants to repudiate the Freeh Report to a level that would place the blame for enabling Sandusky's crimes where it belongs. He has to stay aligned with the BOT members who are the defenders of the Freeh Report.
Checkers, Not ChessI've said all along that Corbett is better suited for checkers, not chess.
He certainly didn't expect for his own Middle District judge to side against him on the Commonwealth's lawsuit. And looking at Judge Kane's history, Corbett had every reason to think she would grant the Commonwealth standing in the case.
Judge Kane served as a Deputy Attorney General in the PA AG's Office under LeRoy Zimmerman and Ernie Preate. Both of these AGs have checkered pasts, as Zimmerman resigned in aftermath of the Hershey Trust Scandal, while Preate resigned after being charged with federal racketeering and corruption charges. He eventually plead guilty to mail fraud and spent a year in Federal prison. So, given her past associations, Corbett must have thought he had this one locked up.
However, Kane was appointed to the bench in by President Bill Clinton in 1998 and was made chief judge of the district in 2006. And in this case, she correctly ruled that the argument that the threat of the death penalty as a threat to commerce "failed to advance the ball" in the antitrust world.
Corbett response to the ruling indicates he's unsure about what to do next.
"I am disappointed with the court’s decision and believe that the sanctions have harmed the citizens, students, athletes, alumni and taxpayers of Pennsylvania. Countless individuals and small businesses throughout the state will continue to suffer because of the NCAA’s actions.
“I feel strongly that the claims we raised in this lawsuit were compelling and these issues deserved a complete and thorough review by the court.
“I will continue to analyze the ruling with my legal team and review our options.’
Given Corbett's political bent, I suspect he will throw another "Hail Mary" and appeal the court's decision. In fact, it is about the only option he has -- the other would be to stand down, admit defeat, and brace for a loss if he decides to run for re-election.
A recent poll indicated that with the lawsuit failing to gain traction, Corbett's approval rating is at an all-time low. Those approving of Corbett's job are at 35% while those believing he deserves re-election is even worse at 32%.
If Corbett looks on the bright side, the 32% is 20 points higher than the amount of findings that Freeh got right (12%) in the his fatally flawed report that was used as the basis for the NCAA Sanctions.
But Corbett's next step is to appeal. He needs it -- and for the process to be prolonged -- to keep alive his political lifeline.