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Paterno family to appeal NCAA sanctions against Penn State

By Anne Danahy, McClatchy Newspapers –

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Saying the NCAA has handled the Penn State sanctions in “a fundamentally inappropriate” way, the Paterno family plans to appeal the penalties against the university.

In a letter sent to NCAA President Mark Emmert on Friday, the family’s attorney, Wick Sollers, said the Joe Paterno 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.”

In the letter, the Paterno family asks for the chance to submit an appeal in writing and have an in-person argument before the Infractions Appeals Committee, the executive committee, Division I board of directors or any other appropriate NCAA audience.

It cited NCAA bylaws and said Paterno is involved because he is named in the consent decree and the Louis Freeh report, which the NCAA pointed to when issuing the sanctions.

“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.

NCAA spokesman Bob Williams said in a statement: “The Penn State sanctions are not subject to appeal.”

A Penn State spokesman declined to comment.

Penn State trustee Anthony Lubrano, who has criticized the board’s handling of the scandal, said he hoped the Paterno family is successful.

“I think many of us in the Penn State community are still upset over the magnitude of the sanctions and the impact that those sanctions are going to have, not just on Penn State football, but on the community at large and the commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Lubrano said.

The NCAA sanctions against Penn State announced July 23 include a $60 million penalty, a four-year postseason ban, slashes in the number of football scholarships the school can offer and vacating of football wins between 1998 and 2011.

The Freeh report determined that top Penn State officials, including Joe Paterno, had intentionally tried to cover up Jerry Sandusky’s child sex abuse.

Penn State President Rodney Erickson said if he hadn’t accepted the sanctions, the university would have faced the prospect of the so-called death penalty for football.

Attorneys for the administrators who are singled out in the Freeh report — former university President Graham Spanier, retired Senior Vice President Gary Schultz and former Athletic Director Tim Curley — and the family of Joe Paterno have disputed the Freeh report, criticizing it for being based on incomplete findings, inaccurate and reaching incorrect conclusions.

Schultz and Curley are facing perjury charges for testimony they gave to a grand jury investigating the Sandusky abuse. Their attorneys have said their clients look forward to being able to tell the full stories in court.

Paterno family members said in July that they would conduct their own review of the Freeh report, which they criticized for presenting opinions and interpretations as though they were facts.

The letter said the NCAA acted “hastily and without any regard for due process.”

It goes on to say, “Given the extraordinary penalty handed out, prudence and justice require that scrupulous adherence to due process be observed and not completely ignored.”

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