If Penn State University trustees commissioned a report that unfairly tainted the campus -- and in doing so triggered landmark National Collegiate Athletic Association sanctions -- then those trustees have a responsibility to act, a high-ranking state lawmaker said Monday.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jake Corman, R-Centre, said the trustees should do their own analysis of the Freeh report and say publicly if they agree or disagree with a finding -- now being harshly criticized -- that university leaders covered up former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky's child sex crimes.
"If they believe that the report was flawed, or at best premature and incomplete, and the NCAA levied its sanctions based on that report, they ought to publicly ask the NCAA to re-evaluate those sanctions," Mr. Corman said.
"It's their report," he said of the trustees. "They own it."
Mr. Corman spoke a day after the family of late football coach Joe Paterno unleashed the latest challenge to the report in the form of a 200-plus-page analysis asserting that findings of a firm headed by former FBI director Louis Freeh were deeply flawed and included conclusions not supported by fact. Among those contributing to the analysis released Sunday was former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, also a former Republican governor of Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile on Monday, there was a call from within the Penn State's board of trustees to revisit the Freeh report. Trustee Alvin Clemens could not be reached for comment, but on Monday he provided to The Associated Press a statement that read in part: "In addition to questions about accuracy and fairness, there is little question that the Freeh report is less than complete. Compounding this problem is the fact that the board never voted to accept the report or the NCAA consent decree."
Mr. Freeh has said his firm stands by its conclusions.
Within weeks of the Freeh report's release, the NCAA announced sanctions against Penn State that included a $60 million fine, deep football scholarship cuts and a four-year ban from bowl games. The collegiate body also vacated all Penn State football wins from 1998 through 2011, effectively stripping Paterno of his title as the winningest major college football coach.
Mr. Corman, whose district includes Penn State's main campus, said the sanctions themselves are less an issue to him than whether Penn State and communities in his district were unfairly painted. He said the matter may well surface during Penn State's hearing on next year's budget, saying such questions are fair to ask of a taxpayer-supported university, even if the $6.5 million spent on the Freeh investigation was not paid with state funds.
Penn State spokesman David La Torre declined comment Monday.
Mr. Corman said he read the Freeh report in its entirety last summer and was not surprised by Sunday's harsh analysis. "I already had come to the conclusion that the facts did not back up the conclusions. The conclusions were very provocative, but when you really read the report, there was very little meat," he said.
Asked about Mr. Corman's comments, Penn State trustee Anthony Lubrano said he applauds the senator "for having the courage to say what the Penn State board's leadership should be saying on its own."
Bill Schackner: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1977.