UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State University President Rodney Erickson says he knew in July some would vilify him for accepting landmark NCAA sanctions over the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, including a $60 million fine and post-season football ban.
"It's the hardest decision I've ever had to make in my 40-year career," he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette today. "I said to my colleagues here, 'I know I will be condemned in some circles.' "
But in an interview marking a year since the scandal exploded into the headlines, Mr. Erickson, 66, expressed no second thoughts about that call, nor other tough choices he has made in the 12 months since the ouster of his predecessor, Graham Spanier thrust Mr. Erickson into the presidency.
"With the cards I was dealt, no, I stand by those decisions ... very difficult decisions as they were," said Mr. Erickson, who announced shortly after taking the job that he intended to step down by June 2014 after the next president was in place.
In remarks a year to the day after Mr. Sandusky's arrest, Mr. Erickson said the university has managed tremendous accomplishments despite the scandal.
He said the $208 million in fundraising last year was the second-best in the university's history, eclipsed by only the previous year. Sponsored research grew from $805 million to $808 million and new research awards are up by 11 percent. And despite a decline of nearly 1,400 students on its Commonwealth campuses, which he attributed largely to state demographic trends, he said the university of nearly 97,000 students mustered a gain of 43 students this fall because of increases on its online World Campus and a small increase at University Park.
"That's about as stable as it gets," he said.
He said the amount of his time devoted to the Sandusky matter has declined.
Nevertheless, he said, "I can't recall that there is ever a day when there is not something related to it that comes across my desk, (or in) my email, my phone, my meetings."
He said he was called to testify Sept. 11 before a state grand jury investigating the case. "The judge gave me specific instructions that I was not to reveal anything about the nature of the testimony other than I had testified if asked," he said.
Asked if he has any reason to suspect he is under suspicion, he replied, "No." Nor is he aware of any indication that others at the university face potential charges.
Sandusky, 68, a retired Penn State assistant football coach, last month began serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence.
He was convicted in June of 45 criminal counts related to sexual assaults on 10 boys over a period of 15 years, some on Penn State's campus.
His arrest thrust Penn State into a media firestorm that within days led to the firing of legendary football coach Joe Paterno and the forced resignation of Mr. Spanier, who last week became the third university official to be criminally charged in an alleged coverup.
Their departures came as the university faced a barrage of criticism for its failure to alert law enforcement to one of Mr. Sandusky's attacks in a campus shower in 2001.