By Mark Dent / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Nevin Shapiro-Miami-NCAA controversy has created a new storyline in the NCAA sanctions of Penn State, with a fired NCAA investigator proclaiming the NCAA didn't impose anything against the university and that Penn State president Rodney Erickson "sold the school down the river."
Earlier today, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel posted information about several emails between former NCAA investigator Ameen Najjar and Shapiro included in the bankruptcy case of Shapiro, the man imprisoned for a Ponzi scheme and charged by the NCAA with providing illicit benefits to University of Miami athletes. Amongst details about the NCAA's investigation of Shapiro was one note about Penn State. Here's what Najjar, the former investigator, wrote to Shapiro on August 7, 2012, according to the documents obtained by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
"The Penn State deal is a travesty," he wrote. "The NCAA did not impose anything. Penn State agreed to and self-imposed the penalties, waved all due process and waived any right to appeal. The NCAA had/has NO authority to impose any penalties in that situation and PSU's president sold the school down the river!"
Najjar had been fired by the NCAA earlier in the summer, before the sanctions came out.
What he wrote contrasts from what president Rodney Erickson and Penn State's counsel have said about the sanctions. On a public conference call between the Board of Trustees last August, Gene Marsh, Penn State's counsel for the NCAA sanctions, said that the NCAA had engaged in a "cram-down" against Penn State, forcing the school to accept what was a bad hand. Previously, ESPN had reported that the NCAA threatened Penn State with four years of the "death penalty" for the football team. Ed Ray, chair of the NCAA executive committee, told ESPN last summer the NCAA didn't threaten anything.
Penn State spokesperson David La Torre released the following statement regarding Najjar's comments: "It's disappointing the university has to comment on a statement from a former NCAA investigator to the subject of his investigation. This investigator was not involved in any discussions involving Penn State and the NCAA. Throughout all of this, Penn State President Rodney Erickson has been consistent in his account. Faced with the very real threat of the "death penalty," as expressly acknowledged by the NCAA in the consent decree, he was left with no choice but to sign the consent decree. It was one of the most difficult things he has had to do in his 36 years of service to Penn State University."
The sanctions, of course, were agreed to last July when Penn State signed a consent decree with the NCAA. Penn State was sanctioned to four years of postseason bans and scholarship reductions and was fined $60 million.