A Penn State University trustees committee prepared for a meeting today that could turn volatile as the full board confronts criticism of the school-commissioned Freeh report.
Along with possible debate among trustees as to whether the Freeh findings in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal unfairly tarred Penn State, the full board meeting at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey is expected to get an earful from 30 former football players.
They are among alumni still angry over the firing of famed football coach Joe Paterno, who died of cancer at age 85 last year.
On Thursday afternoon, the board's governance committee weighed and endorsed a proposal to alter the status of Penn State's president and the state's governor to ex-officio, non-voting board members. The change would reduce the number of voting trustees to 30 from 32.
It is among the potential changes to be weighed by the full board at its May meeting. Those changes are being considered, even as the state Senate's State Government Committee explores other recommended changes advanced last fall by then-state Auditor General Jack Wagner. The Senate committee plans a hearing Monday on the changes.
Gov. Tom Corbett concurs with making governance changes, including the shift in his voting status. "He supports it," spokesman Kevin Harley said.
Penn State president Rodney Erickson, reached late Thursday, said in an email he, too, favors the changes.
Today's meeting took on added potential for drama when trustees chairman Keith Masser said the board would publicly discuss the Freeh report. It found that Paterno and other campus leaders sought to cover up crimes by Sandusky, now in prison for attacks on 10 boys over a decade, including some on campus. He said the board also will address a rebuttal to the report commissioned by the Paterno family.
The Freeh report, released in July, was followed days later by landmark NCAA sanctions against the university, among them a post-season football bowl ban and a $60 million fine.
In recent weeks, the report has come under intensifying attack from Paterno loyalists, and the matter even impacted Penn State's annual budget trip before the state Senate Appropriations Committee. Appropriations Committee chair Jake Corman, R-Centre, has said trustees should analyze the Freeh report and say publicly if they agree with it.
Louis J. Freeh, the former FBI director whose firm authored the report, has defended its accuracy.