NCAA to Gradually Restore Penn State’s Football Scholarships
The NCAA announced this week that it will reduce the unprecedented sanctions against Penn State’s football program by gradually restoring scholarships starting next season. Modifications to other sanctions, such as reducing the four-year postseason ban, may be on the horizon but were not announced.
We all remember when the crimes committed by Jerry Sandusky were splashed on the front pages of newspapers, and when the case involving the notorious former Penn State assistant coach was the focus of every news channel for months. After Sandusky was convicted and imprisoned for 60 years came a report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh criticizing the college. The now infamous “Freeh Report”, issued over one year ago, determined that the university failed to take the proper actions following multiple reports that former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky had sexually abused young boys on campus.
Following the report, the NCAA punished Penn State with a harsh sentence. The school was capped at 65 scholarships starting in 2014, faces a $60 million fine, and was banned from the postseason until 2015. Many believe the scholarship reduction was the most substantial sanction.
However, on the recommendation of former United States Senator George Mitchell, who has been serving as the independent athletics integrity monitor for Penn State, the NCAA Executive Committee announced it would gradually restore football scholarships the university lost. According to Mitchell:
[Penn State] has substantially completed the initial implementation of over 120 tasks outlined in the athletics integrity agreement. They have hired their first chief compliance officer and their first athletics integrity Officer. Penn State also has taken steps to ensure that there is appropriate oversight of intercollegiate athletics at the highest levels of the University’s leadership. [Relief from the sanctions is] warranted and deserved.
Among the changes Penn State has implemented are more thorough background checks, improved, employee training, conspicuous on-campus security and stringent records retention standards. Mitchell has written glowingly about the “full cooperation” he has received by the University in implementing these types of changes.
Beginning in the 2014-15, additional scholarships will be restored to the university’s football team. For the 2014-15 season, the school will now be able to grant 75 scholarships. An increase will follow each year until Penn State reaches the full allocation of 85 football scholarships in 2016-17.
Mitchell will continue to monitor Penn State’s implementation of the Freeh Report recommendations and the athletics integrity agreement. There may be additional reductions if Penn State continues to show progress at a rapid pace. Importantly, the $60 million fine to help fund child abuse programs will remain in effect. Noticeably absent from the press release is what the NCAA intends to do if Penn State fails to comply.