In an unprecedented move, the NCAA has allowed the Penn State football program to recoup many of its lost scholarships because the school has shown progress in achieving athletic integrity, the governing body noted today.
The NCAA will restore five football scholarships to Penn State and total 75 beginning with the 2014-15 academic year. Scholarships will increase annually until reaching 25 in 2015-16 and achieve the full complement of 85 in 2016-17. Initially the NCAA capped Penn State’s annual scholarships at 15 with a total allotment of 65 through 2018.
“While there is more work to be done, Penn State has clearly demonstrated its commitment to restoring integrity in its athletics program,” said George Mitchell, the independent Athletics Integrity Monitor for Penn State and a former U.S. Senator. “The university has substantially completed the initial implementation of all the Freeh Report recommendations and its obligations to the Athletics Integrity Agreement, so relief from the scholarship reductions is warranted and deserved.”
The school still is required to pay its $60 million fine, which funds child abuse prevention programs, and remains in the second year of a four-year bowl ban. But Penn State can appeal those sanctions with continued progress, according to an NCAA news release.
Penn State was hit with major sanctions after a report commissioned by former U.S. attorney general Louis Freeh said the school and high-ranked officials were complicit in covering up a sex abuse scandal by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Former head coach Joe Paterno, athletics director Tim Curley and other officials were accused of ignoring or thwarting investigations. Sandusky eventually was charged and convicted of sexually abusing several children, including some in the football complex. Paterno, who set a Division I record with 409 wins, had 15 years worth of victories wiped out by the decree.
Here is the Big Ten’s statement:
Park Ridge, Ill. – Earlier today the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) held a teleconference to announce a modification to the sanctions set forth in the Consent Decree that the NCAA entered into with Penn State on July 23, 2012.
The NCAA’s decision to modify the Consent Decree was based strongly on the recommendations of Senator George Mitchell who has been serving since August 2012 as the independent Athletics Integrity Monitor responsible for overseeing Penn State’s implementation of the reforms set forth in the Athletics Integrity Agreement (AIA). The AIA was entered into on August 29, 2012 by the NCAA, the Big Ten Conference and Penn State as one of the requirements of the Consent Decree.
As a party to the AIA, the Big Ten, through its Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COPC), met with Senator Mitchell on Tuesday, September 17, 2013 and received his report on Penn State’s progress in complying with the reform requirements of the AIA. Senator Mitchell’s briefing included a recommendation to modify the NCAA sanctions in the Consent Decree related to scholarships based on the significant progress that Penn State has made to date in its compliance and reform efforts. He made no other recommendations to modify any other sanctions at this time.
“On the basis of Senator Mitchell’s briefing, the COPC reached consensus to support his recommendation to the NCAA,” said COPC Chair and Iowa President, Sally Mason. “We support the NCAA’s announcement today acting on that recommendation.”