- Associated Press - Thursday, May 30, 2013

STATE COLLEGE, PA. (AP) - A lawsuit planned by the family of the late Penn State coach Joe Paterno, former players and others connected to the school seeks to overturn the NCAA’s swift and strict sanctions against the football program for the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

The 40-page suit to be filed Thursday will name as defendants the NCAA and its president, Mark Emmert, and Oregon State President Edward Ray, who was chair of the NCAA’s executive committee, according to a statement released by attorney Wick Sollers and other family representatives late Wednesday night.

The planned litigation also seeks to shine a light on the withering report prepared by former FBI director Louis Freeh, whom the university tapped to lead an investigation into the scandal, and calls into question how and why the NCAA used the report as a basis for its sanctions in July, according to Sollers.

College sports’ governing body acted with uncharacteristic speed in levying landmark penalties that included a four-year bowl ban and steep scholarship cuts less than two weeks after Freeh released his findings.

The NCAA, Emmert and Ray “acted in clear and direct violation of the organization’s own rules based on a flawed report” by Freeh, the statement said. The report pointed blame in part on Paterno and three former school officials.

“This case is further proof that the NCAA has lost all sense of its mission. If there was ever a situation that demanded meticulous review and a careful adherence to NCAA rules and guidelines, this was it,” Sollers said. “Instead, the NCAA placed a premium on speed over accuracy and precipitous action over due process.”

Paterno’s son, Jay Paterno, and Bill Kenney are two former Paterno assistants taking part in the action against the NCAA, the statement said. Also joining in the suit are five trustees, four faculty members and nine ex-Penn State players, including Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson, according to the statement.

Sollers said the suit was to be filed in state court in Centre County, home of Penn State’s flagship campus. The family planned to post the complaint on http://www.paterno.com after it was filed.

Freeh accused Paterno and three former university officials of concealing allegations against Sandusky, a retired defensive coordinator. Sandusky was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison after being convicted last year of dozens of criminal counts of abuse, including allegations on and off campus.

Paterno died in January 2012. His family and the former school officials have vehemently denied they took part in a cover-up.

The suit is designed “to redress the NCAA’s 100 percent adoption of the Freeh Report. … The reality is that consent decree was imposed through coercion and threats behind the scenes, and there was no ability for anyone to get redress,” Sollers told Bob Costas in an interview that aired on the NBC Sports Network’s “Costas Tonight” early Thursday morning.

“There was no board approval, there was no transparency, and there was no consideration of this consent decree.”

Dick Thornburgh, a former U.S. attorney general and Pennsylvania governor, also was interviewed by Costas. Thornburgh was an author of a critique released in February and commissioned by the Paterno family that called Freeh’s work a “rush to injustice.”

The family’s lawsuit would be the latest filing in a tangled web of litigation related to the sanctions. Most prominently, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA, which also has faced criticism for a botched investigation of Miami and departures in the enforcement division.

The penalties against Penn State included a $60 million fine. The NCAA also vacated 111 wins from Paterno’s record, meaning he would no longer hold the title of major college football’s winningest coach.

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