(USA Today) -- The lawyers representing late Penn State coach Joe Paterno have filed a formal appeal with the NCAA over the sanctions the association levied last month against the program and, specifically, the finding that Paterno was involved in the school's cover-up of the child sexual-abuse scandal.
Lawyers are appealing the characterization of Paterno as an "involved individual" because he was referenced in the NCAA consent decree and the nearly 300-page report by former FBI director Louis Freeh, who concluded that Paterno was among the senior leaders who concealed information that potentially could have stopped former assistant coach Jerry Sanduskyfrom preying on children.
The letter, obtained by Onward State, an online news organization serving the Penn State community, states that the NCAA "acted hastily and without any regard for due process" and that the Freeh Report is "deeply flawed because it is incomplete, rife with unsupported opinions and unquestionably one-sided."
The Paterno family also requests an in-person argument before the Infractions Appeals Committee, the letter states.
In ruling on the Penn State scandal, the NCAA bypassed its traditional investigative procedures and, therefore, the case was not investigated by NCAA officials or heard before the infractions committee, which typically acts as judge and jury in investigations. Instead, the NCAA relied on the findings of the Freeh Report, whose conclusions were adopted by Penn State, because NCAA President Mark Emmert said its depth and scope could not have been matched by the NCAA.
Penn State President Rodney Erickson has said that he signed the NCAA's consent decree to avoid the football program being shut down for as many as four seasons. While spared the so-called death penalty, Penn State received unprecedented sanctions, including a four-year postseason bowl ban, massive scholarship reductions and a $60 million fine.
"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," states the letter, which was signed by J. Sedwick Sollers III. "To severely punish a university and its community and to condemn a great educator, philanthropist and coach without any public review or hearing is unfair on its face and a violation of NCAA guidelines."
The NCAA did not immediately respond to a request from USA TODAY Sports to comment on the letter.