PSU board to review NCAA sanctions
Share with others:
Penn State University moved Thursday to end days of acrimony over its acceptance of landmark NCAA sanctions without a trustees vote, announcing a special board meeting Sunday to weigh ratification of a consent decree already signed by the school's president.
In an email to trustees in which she called for a vote, board Chairwoman Karen Peetz stopped short of saying the school had erred, but she acknowledged "a considerable amount of confusion and misinformation" about how Penn State came to accept the consent decree "and why we believe that was the best course for the university."
She told trustees of the need for unity and for "laser focus" on the future.
"It is time to put this matter to rest and move on," Ms. Peetz wrote in the email, a copy of which was obtained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Sunday's meeting, to be held via conference call, was announced during a week in which one board member and a group of former football players and an assistant coach said they would appeal the NCAA's landmark sanctions in the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. The family of late head coach Joe Paterno previously had said it was appealing the sanctions.
On July 23, the day the sanctions were announced, Penn State president Rodney Erickson said the university would not contest the four-year ban on post-season play, a $60 million fine, sharp cuts in football scholarships and forfeiture of 111 football wins going back to 1998.
Vacating those wins effectively ended Mr. Paterno's status as the nation's winningest major college football coach. The period coincided with the earliest child sex abuse allegations against Mr. Sandusky, a retired assistant football coach who in June was convicted on 45 counts of sexually abusing boys, some on the Penn State campus.
A university-commissioned report released in July concluded that top Penn State leaders, including Mr. Paterno, were actively involved in keeping allegations regarding Mr. Sandusky from law enforcement for years.
In a taped interview with the Centre Daily Times on July 23 posted to Penn State's website, Mr. Erickson said trustee leadership and others were consulted but that he ultimately accepted the consent decree on behalf of Penn State "knowing that if we did not accept these sanctions we would most surely have faced the death penalty for the football program over multiple years."
He added, "It was my decision."
Ms. Peetz sat beside him during the interview, which suggested that the decision was supported by the board. Nevertheless, some trustees complained that Mr. Erickson lacked authority to enter into such an agreement without a board vote and that they were not consulted.
Trustees said the NCAA relied on a report that they assert was flawed and did not provide individuals due process.
Ryan J. McCombie, the trustee who filed the letter of intent to appeal the NCAA sanctions, expressed sympathy for the victims and supports efforts to ensure that such "reprehensible conduct" is never repeated. But he also said a rush to judgment does not advance those goals.
"The desire for speed and decisiveness cannot justify violating the due process rights of other involved individuals or the university as a whole," stated a letter from his attorneys to the NCAA. "That is what has occurred here."
Two other trustees, Anthony Lubrano and Joel Myers, told the Post-Gazette this week that they support Mr. McCombie's efforts.
In her email, Ms. Peetz alluded to a phone session Tuesday evening during which trustees were briefed on the matter.
"We have heard from President Erickson and from our legal team. We have had an opportunity to speak our minds. I appreciate everyone's candor and your sincere and heartfelt comments," Ms. Peetz told the trustees.
After calling for the vote, she added, "We are leaders of this university. We need to lead."
Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, an alumni group that has sought board reform, said the public will be able to know how each trustee voted.
"We see it as an acknowledgment that Rodney Erickson did not have authority to sign the decree," said a spokeswoman for the group, Maribeth Schmidt.
The public can listen online to Sunday's 5 p.m. meeting via the website of Penn State's public broadcasting outlet, WPSU.org/live. Also, the first 50 people to call 1-866-393-1766 with the following -- • 1855# (star, 1855, pound key) -- will be able to listen in to the call.
First Published August 10, 2012 12:00 am