Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett said he will sue the National Collegiate Athletic Association, challenging a $60 million fine levied against Pennsylvania State University for its role in the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal.

The NCAA forced Penn State President Rodney Erickson “to agree to the sanctions under the threat of a death penalty” to its football program, Corbett said Wednesday at a press conference near the university in State College, Pa.

The state will file the complaint in federal court in Harrisburg, Corbett said. The university isn’t party to the suit, he said.

Penn State was sanctioned by the NCAA in July and fined $60 million for its failure to prevent the sexual abuse by Sandusky, a former football coach who was convicted of molesting 10 boys over 15 years. The 68-year-old Sandusky, an assistant coach for 31 years under Joe Paterno, was sentenced in October to a minimum of 30 years in prison.

Bowl game ban

In addition to the fine, the Indianapolis-based NCAA, the governing body for college sports, stripped Penn State of 112 football wins from 1998 through 2011 and barred the Nittany Lions from bowl games for four years, matching the longest post- season ban in NCAA history.

Corbett, 63, said in July that he was grateful the NCAA didn’t impose a so-called death penalty shutting down the football program. He said he sought assurance from Penn State that no taxpayer dollars would be used to pay the fine.

“A handful of the top NCAA officials inserted themselves in an issue they had no authority to police,” Corbett said Wednesday. “The NCAA had no authority to operate outside of their own bylaws. This is a criminal matter, not a violation of NCAA rules.”

Erik Christianson, a spokesman for the NCAA, didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment. David La Torre, a spokesman for the university, didn’t immediately return a phone call and e-mail seeking comment.

Penn State said in August that it would pay in five annual installments of $12 million out of football reserves, the deferring of capital and maintenance expenditures and an internal Athletic Department loan. The NCAA sanctions required the payment to be made over five years into a special fund for child-abuse prevention programs.

Abuse allegations

In the fiscal year ended in 2011, Penn State’s athletic department generated $116.1 million in operating revenue and posted a $14.8 million operating profit, according to school records. The football team had an operating profit of $43.8 million on $58.9 million in revenue.

The NCAA acted against the school less than two weeks after an investigation found that Paterno, who died of lung cancer in January 2012, and other school officials tried to cover up abuse allegations. Paterno wasn’t charged with any crime.

The $6.5 million internal investigation commissioned by the university and led by Louis Freeh, the former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, found that school officials ignored numerous red flags involving Sandusky for more than a decade. Freeh’s report faulted the “culture of reverence” surrounding Penn State’s football program for leading to the Sandusky scandal.

Former Penn State President Graham Spanier and two other Penn State officials are facing criminal charges tied to a 2001 abuse allegation against Sandusky. Their cases are pending in state court in Harrisburg. A January trial date has been delayed indefinitely.

Paterno’s family hasn’t reviewed the suit and declined to comment on any specifics, Mara Vandlik, a spokeswoman for the family with McGinn & Co., said in a statement.

“The fact that Governor Corbett now realizes, as do many others, that there was an inexcusable rush to judgment is encouraging,” the family said in the statement.

Corbett said at the news conference that the state in the suit will ask a judge to declare the consent agreement illegal.

The NCAA sanctions were “overreaching and unlawful,” he said.