WASHINGTON - Five U.S. representatives from Pennsylvania have asked the NCAA to rescind the penalties imposed on Pennsylvania State University for its leaders' handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal.
"Continuing these unprecedented sanctions harms innocent student athletes and further erodes the increasingly specious credibility" of the NCAA, the five lawmakers wrote in a July 24 letter to Mark Emmert, president of the organization that oversees college sports.
The representatives cited an April 9 Commonwealth Court ruling that sharply questioned the validity of a consent decree between the NCAA and Penn State imposing the penalties. The NCAA has promised to challenge the ruling.
Three of the letter's authors - U.S. Reps. Charlie Dent, Mike Doyle, and Glenn Thompson - are Penn State alumni. U.S. Reps. Jim Gerlach and Mike Kelly also signed. Doyle is a Democrat; the others are all Republicans.
They question the validity of the sanctions and the organization's authority to impose penalties because the case involved a former assistant football coach who was no longer a school employee and victims who were not student athletes.
The penalties, which include a $60 million fine and reduced athletic scholarships, also hurt current students who were in high school when the sanctions were imposed, they contend.
"Continued enforcement of these questionable sanctions only harms innocent student athletes who had nothing to do with Jerry Sandusky's unspeakable crimes," the lawmakers wrote.
Much of the criticism following Sandusky's sexual abuse conviction centered on how school administrators and leaders, including the late football coach Joe Paterno, responded to allegations surrounding Sandusky, a former Paterno assistant.
State lawmakers have passed a law and gone to court to try to ensure that the fine funds programs in Pennsylvania. The NCAA has defended the validity of the consent decree and argued that the state law violates the Pennsylvania Constitution.
An NCAA spokeswoman said Monday that the organization had not received the letter and would have no comment.