Perhaps lost in the buzz surrounding signing day is the latest development in the lawsuit filed by the family of former Penn State head coach Joe Paterno against the NCAA. After making some changes to the original lawsuit, the Paterno family has added Penn State as a nominal defendant after the NCAA argued the university should be labeled as a defendant in the case. A nominal defendant is one that is included in a lawsuit due to a technicality in order to make an accurate ruling but has no responsibility or fault in the ruling.
According to a report by Penn State student newspaper The Daily Collegian, the changes to the lawsuit were made to appease the NCAA but the family is not seeking any damage or compensation from the school.
“To be clear, we do not seek any monetary damages from Penn State, nor do we ask that the court order Penn State to take any action.” attorney for the Paterno side, Wick Sollers said in a statement. “We ask only for a declaration that the plaintiffs have rights under the NCAA rules that were violated, and that the Consent Decree imposed by the NCAA is null and void.”
The Paterno family is seeking to overturn the sanctions levied by the NCAA against the football program in the fallout of the Jerry Sandusky scandal and publication of the Freeh Report. It is the Paterno family’s belief the university was pressure to sign off on a consent decree, which university president Rodney Erickson did in the summer of 2012. Because of the way the NCAA handled the Penn State case, the Paterno family claims a number of assistant coaches, including Jay Paterno, were victims of defamation and because of that have not been able to find a job coaching football since being let go by the university once Bill O’Brien was hired in January 2012.
One of the demands of the consent decree mandated Penn State would accept whatever punishment the NCAA handed down without challenging the decision. This is not typical of NCAA protocol that allows for a university to appeal a decision made by the NCAA. Penn State was issued a four-year postseason ban, significant reduction in available scholarships and a $60 million fine to be paid over the course of the sanction period. Current players and recruits were also given a free transfer by the NCAA. Since then the NCAA has cut back on the scholarship restrictions and is allowing Penn State to gradually work back up to 85 total scholarships.
Penn State was given back five scholarships for the Class of 2014, going from 15 to 20. The Nittany Lions will have a full 25 initial scholarships to offer in the Class of 2015.