UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell said he is pleased with the reforms so far made by Penn State University officials following sanctions that were imposed by the NCAA in response to the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
Mr. Mitchell was appointed to the position of athletics integrity monitor to keep track of the university's progress in complying with its Athletics Integrity Agreement with the NCAA and the Big Ten.
"Based on our work to date, Penn State's Board of Trustees and its administration appear determined to implement, swiftly and in good faith, the recommendations for reform that were identified in the Freeh report and to fulfill the commitments that the University made in the AIA," Mr. Mitchell said in a statement.
"Penn State has dedicated substantial time and resources to accomplishing these objectives. It is too soon to judge the ultimate result. But I believe that Penn State is off to a very good start."
The reforms, part of a joint agreement between Penn State, the NCAA and the Big Ten, mainly had to do with improving administrative organization, campus security and the athletic department's commitment to following NCAA and Big Ten regulations.
• New background check procedures for employees at Penn State sports camps.
• Training for mandated reporter laws and the Clery Act for university employees.
• A written code of conduct for intercollegiate athletics to follow.
• The hiring of a new compliance officer in the athletics department. Penn State now has five compliance employees, a number Mr. Mitchell favorably compared to other Big Ten schools. The associate athletic director for compliance will now report to another compliance employee in addition to the athletic director.
• Allowing other athletes to use the Lasch Building, previously reserved for the football team only.
• Improving security for athletic and recreational buildings. Rec Hall and similar facilities, previously open to the public, can now be used only by people with Penn State identification.
• Change to the structure of the Board of Trustees. Mr. Mitchell referred to the new members elected by alumni and the creation of three new committees within the Board.
"It is conducting far-more than a 'check the box' exercise," Mr. Mitchell wrote of Penn State's changes.
Mr. Mitchell also made reference to the state auditor general's report, released in November, which called for a reduction of the number of trustees, but did not outline any specifics he wanted the university to take from the report.
Under a timeline that calls for more changes by the end of the year, Mr. Mitchell said he expects Penn State to hire an athletics integrity monitor for its newly established athletics integrity council and to finalize a Required Disclosure Program among others.
Penn State, the NCAA and the Big Ten entered into the Athletics Integrity Agreement in late August as part of the consent decree Penn State signed with the NCAA in July.
Also on Friday, U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Allentown, sent a letter to NCAA president Mark Emmert requesting that the $60 million fine imposed on Penn State by the NCAA should be used to fund sexual abuse programs in Pennsylvania. The NCAA has called for 25 percent of the funds to be used in Pennsylvania.
Mr. Dent said the letter was sent on behalf of Pennsylvania's congressional delegation.
"While we support the stated purpose of the endowment, we believe its funds should be used solely for programs and organizations located within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, where a need exists for the creation of prevention programs for sexually abused children," the letter said.
Mark Dent: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @mdent05