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January 4, 2013

Child advocate group critical of NCAA suit

— A national organization working toward accountability in child sexual molestation cases has come out fighting following Wednesday’s announcement by Gov. Tom Corbett of a lawsuit he filed against the NCAA over its sanctions against Penn State last year.

An official of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said Thursday Corbett and those who support the federal antitrust suit are shortsighted.

SNAP Executive Director David Clohessy of St. Louis said the push to see that all of the $60 million in fines the university is required to pay remains in Pennsylvania is an indication of greed.

“We suspect that Gov. Corbett is posturing to curry favor with Penn State staff and alums,” Clohessy said. “At best, his lawsuit is frivolous and at worst, it threatens to delay or derail the millions of dollars that would otherwise be devoted to protecting children.”

Corbett maintains that the NCAA, which organizes athletic programs in many colleges and universities, was acting outside its authority when it imposed huge fines and other sanctions following the sex abuse case of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

In response to the lawsuit filed by Corbett in U.S. District Court, the NCAA, in a statement, said it has no merit and is an affront to Sandusky’s victims.

One of the worst aspects about the Sandusky scandal is the attitudes taken toward the victims, Clohessy said, and Corbett’s efforts to minimize the sanctions and fines by the NCAA is an effort to minimize those victims.

“There’s the healing perspective, from the kinds of horrors like the Penn State one. People often put closure ahead of all else, including the victims,” he said.

The fine, coupled with steps to abolish the university’s football wins from 1998 to 2011, scholarship reductions and a four-year bowl ban, goes far in sending a message to other institutions who choose to place reputation over victims, Clohessy said.

“You just can’t overstate the deterrent value,” he said.

Clohessy and SNAP recently weighed in on the announcement by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown that child sexual abuse allegations surfaced against the Rev. George Koharchik while he was a priest at parishes in Cambria County during the 1970s.

SNAP urged Bishop Mark Bartchak to post the names of all priests in the diocese credibly linked to child abuse on its website, in the Catholic Register and church bulletins.

The organization also asked Bartchak to aggressively seek out others who may have been abused by Koharchik and personally visit each parish where the priest, now on leave, served in an effort to prompt other victims to come forward.

Regarding Corbett and the NCAA, Clohessy said attempts to keep all of the $60 million in Pennsylvania are questionable because Sandusky’s crimes reached far beyond the state’s borders.

“To put it another way, Penn State attracts and recruits students and staff from everywhere. Penn State students and staff move everywhere,” he said.

“Penn State’s sports teams play everywhere, and kids who participated in Sandusky’s Second Mile likely live everywhere. We still do not know how far reaching Sandusky’s crimes were.”

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