Proposed NCAA deal would restore football wins for Penn State, Joe Paterno
January 16, 2015 11:45 PM
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
Penn State University President Eric J. Barron speaks Friday after Penn State trustees voted to accept a proposed settlement of a lawsuit between the NCAA and state officials as a result of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal. At left is trustee Kathleen L. Casey. At right is chairman of the trustees, Keith Masser.
The restored victories would include 111 under Joe Paterno, who died in 2012.
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
Penn State trustee Anthony P. Lubrano, left, celebrates with fellow trustees after a vote to accept the repeal of NCAA sanctions against Penn State/
By Michael Sanserino and Bill Schackner / Pittsburgh Post-Gazettte
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State University spent most of the past three years struggling to cope with broad NCAA sanctions it received for its role in the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.
The impact of those penalties was felt everywhere from the football field to the governor’s office. Angry alumni disrupted trustees meetings, and the university struggled to move beyond an ugly chapter in its history.
But a proposed settlement to a lawsuit between the NCAA and Pennsylvania state officials is on the verge of putting those penalties to rest, which could go a long way to easing tensions that first boiled over when Mr. Sandusky was arrested in 2011.
Eric Barron on the proposed settlement
Penn State President Eric Barron met with the media to discuss the proposed settlement in the Corman-McCord vs. NCAA lawsuit after the Penn State Board of Trustees voted on unanimously approve it Friday afternoon.(Audrey Snyder/Post-Gazette)
The Penn State board of trustees Friday unanimously approved a proposed settlement that, among other things, would keep money from the university’s $60 million fine in state and restore 112 wins to the football program, 111 of which would make Joe Paterno, once again, the winningest coach in college football history.
The NCAA board of governors also approved the proposed settlement Friday.
The agreement would repeal the consent decree Penn State signed in July 2012 when the university accepted unprecedented sanctions. It would require Penn State to enter into a new athletics integrity agreement with the NCAA. The university would also be required to recognize the NCAA’s “legitimate and good faith interest and concern regarding the Jerry Sandusky matter.”
“I’m pleased that we can close this chapter and look ahead to the important challenges and opportunities that are facing Penn State,” Penn State President Eric Barron said Friday.
State Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre, and state Treasurer Rob McCord sued the NCAA, challenging the Indianapolis-based organization’s right to fine a state-funded university and distribute that money elsewhere.
Mr. Corman enthusiastically endorsed the settlement Friday.
“Treasurer McCord supports the agreement in principle, but he intends to carry out a careful review of the details and language before he signs off on the final settlement,” said a statement released by Gary Tuma, spokesman for Mr. McCord.
The judge in the case, though not required to sign off on the agreement, would have to decide whether to approve discontinuation of the case, said Mr. Tuma after checking with an attorney in his office.
If approved, $12 million of the $60 million going to the commonwealth would stay at Penn State for an endowment used to expand research and public services programs to help eliminate child abuse.
Mr. Paterno, who died in 2012 a couple months after he was fired from the university, would have 409 career coaching victories. What happens to his legacy, including the bronze statue of him that was removed from outside Beaver Stadium in 2012, remains to be seen.
“I prefer not to talk about things that will be a topic of discussion in public before chatting with lots of people,” Mr. Barron said. “There will be a time and place.”
The NCAA went public with the proposed settlement before Penn State’s board was to convene its 1:30 p.m. meeting at which debate was expected on the merits of a settlement and whether the university should switch sides in the case. At present, Penn State is a co-defendant.
Before voting at the previously scheduled meeting, the trustees met privately for nearly 45 minutes where they watched Mr. Corman’s news conference. At one point, alumni-elected trustee Anthony Lubrano — among those most critical of the NCAA’s actions — walked out of the room to catch his breath and take in the significance of the proposal.
“Today is a victory for the people of Pennsylvania,” Mr. Corman said. “The NCAA has surrendered.”
The reaction in most Penn State circles was equally positive.
“Today is a great victory for everyone who has fought for the truth in the Sandusky tragedy,” read a statement on behalf of the Paterno family. “The repeal of the consent decree and the return of the wins to the University and Joe Paterno confirm that the NCAA and the Board of Trustees acted prematurely and irresponsibly in the unprecedented sanctions the NCAA imposed on the University, the players, coaches and the community.”
The Paterno family statement continued: “This case should always have been about the pursuit of the truth, not the unjust vilification of the culture of a great institution and the scapegoating of coaches, players and administrators who were never given a chance to defend themselves.”
The Paterno family still has an ongoing lawsuit against the NCAA, but Mr. Lubrano said he believed a settlement could be reached there, as well.
Gov. Tom Corbett’s office declined to comment on the proposed settlement over NCAA sanctions against Penn State or the restoration of the school’s and Paterno’s wins. “We’re not issuing a statement,” aide Lynn Lawson said.
One organization not pleased was Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, or “PS4RS,” a group of alumni and others long critical of the trustees’ handling of the case, including the treatment of Mr. Paterno. While grateful for work by Mr. Corman and Mr. McCord, “We cannot support [a deal] that does not require the NCAA to acknowledge its wrongdoing,” read a statement from PS4RS spokeswoman Maribeth Roman Schmidt.
While the proposal isn’t what Mr. Lubrano deemed “perfect” — he wanted the consent decree voided as if it never happened — he called it a “big win.”
“This is significant,” he said. “This was a beat down on the NCAA, it really was.”
Penn State’s four-year bowl ban was reduced after two seasons, and the Nittany Lions made their return to postseason play last month when they beat Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl. The football team will have the full allotment of 85 scholarships available this season, another NCAA sanction that was restored early along with the bowl eligibility announcement that came in September.
Audrey Snyder: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @audsnyder4. Staff writers Bill Schackner and Bill Toland contributed.