The Penn State Board of Trustees adopted a resolution Aug. 13 supporting “full compliance” with the NCAA consent decree, adding the majority of the board’s opinion to ongoing settlement discussions over sanctions against the university.
The resolution, which was adopted 19-8, says, among other things, the “University remains committed to full compliance with the Consent Decree” and “any settlement should be consistent with this commitment.”
In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, Penn State was hit with a $60 million fine, which is the subject of ongoing litigation between the National Collegiate Athletic Association, Penn State, and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jake Corman and State Treasurer Rob McCord.
The board also supported language to keep the monetary fine for Pennsylvania-based child welfare organizations, what is essentially the crux of the Corman lawsuit. The NCAA intended to distribute the money to child welfare programs across the country.
However, the language supporting the consent decree, contained in two sentences at the end of the resolution, became controversial and was subject of a lengthy debate between a minority faction of the Board and those aligned with a majority. The telephone conference meeting was live-streamed through WPSU in State College, which also provided a transcript.
Trustee Rick DeAndrea, chairman of the legal subcommittee, said the majority of the board was in agreement with the university “not to attack the consent decree at this point in time but, rather, to continue with our program for compliance.”
Former Senate President Pro Tem Bob Jubelirer, a recently alumni-elected Trustee, offered an amendment to strike the language from the resolution, but it failed to gain majority support.
“This goes to the core of what Penn State is. This is breaking a lot of hearts and putting a lot of people through a lot of things, and I can only imagine what Dr. [Eric] Barron is going through right now, and I don’t envy him,” Jubelirer said.
Sandusky was convicted of sexually abusing several young boys on and off campus over a number of years. He is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence. The NCAA, relying on a report from former FBI Director Louis Freeh, found an “unprecedented failure of institutional integrity” that allowed Sandusky to carry out his actions for years. The report has been the subject of criticism. The consent decree levied the fine, limited scholarships, banned the football program from post-season play, and vacated several years-worth of victories under Penn State’s legendary head coach, the late Joe Paterno.
Three former top university administrators are awaiting trial for an alleged cover-up, according to the state Office of Attorney General, which claims the three were involved in “a conspiracy of silence.”
The Board’s minority faction planned to offer a resolution that “acknowledges Jerry Sandusky’s sole responsibility for the crimes he committed,” and “acknowledges and regrets crimes committed on this University property.”
The resolution, which was not called up for a vote, also would have sought the return of penalty money in escrow and rescinded “further obligation under that penalty,” according to board member Ryan McCombie, who read the minority members’ resolution into the record.
Board member Keith Eckel said it would be “a major mistake” to try and undo the consent decree.
“When it comes to the question of the statement about the consent decree, what we are talking about, what we say, is strictly focused on compliance. And we have complied with it for over two years. When I consider this, I think of the 98,000 students that we serve, and I believe it’s imperative that these issues be resolved as soon as possible for the students,” Eckel said. “The timetable that the consent decree encompasses, we can see the end of that. I do not see the end of that with legal battles.”
“I believe it would be a major mistake to turn back now,” he said.
Anthony Lubrano, an outspoken opponent of the consent decree, said the roughly 600,000 alumni across the country “have been let down by this Board.”
The lawsuit involving Corman, McCord, Penn State and the NCAA is focused on control of the $60 million penalty. The state approved the Endowment Act that requires the fine money be spent on Pennsylvania child welfare agencies. A state judge upheld the law as constitutional and also questioned the validity of the NCAA’s consent decree. The parties are scheduled to meet with the judge Thursday for a private discussion.
–Kevin Zwick, Capitolwire