Penn State Taking Notable Steps to Implement Systemic Changes After Sandusky Scandal

Penn State is apparently making steady progress in incorporating the requirements mandated by the NCAA on the heels of the embarrassing Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.  Last month, former Senator George Mitchell (the third-party Athletics Integrity Monitor) stated that Penn State is implementing various campus-wide changes to address deficiencies which had rendered the University and its administrators partly culpable for Sandusky’s criminal actions.

Mr. Mitchell recently detailed in a second quarterly report to the NCAA and Penn State (as required to be issued pursuant to the consent decree Penn State signed with the NCAA) that the University has met the deadline for meeting the requirements set forth in article IV of the Athletics Integrity Agreement (“AIA”) entered among the NCAA, Penn State and the Big Ten Conference as well as most of the recommendations set forth in a report by Louis Freeh in the now infamous “Freeh Report.”  This includes hiring a new “athletics integrity officer” and the establishment of a new athletic code of conduct.  According to Mitchell’s report, about 1800 new certifications relating to the code have been completed at Penn State including those by players, coaches, administrators and board members. The certifying individuals have received, reviewed, and agreed to comply with Penn State’s new code. The new code enumerates, among other provisions, the prompt reporting of any violations.  The code also guarantees protection for apparent “whistle blowers” who seek to report a breach of the standards set forth in the code.  As late as the last week of March, the University had reported that more than 70% of Freeh’s 119 recommendations were completed.  (The University has indicated that it will bypass implementing a few recommendations).

The newly hired Athletic Integrity Officer is Julie Del Giorno.  As detailed in the job description on Penn State’s website, Ms. Del Giorno “will be responsible for developing and implementing policies, procedures and practices designed to insure compliance by the University’s Department of Intercollegiate Athletics (Athletics Department) with all applicable NCAA and Big Ten rules and regulations. .  . .”  This post was created specifically to address the compliance weaknesses underscored in the Sandusky scandal.  Ms. Del Giorno will eventually become chairman of the newly formed “Athletics Integrity Council.” Team Monitors were also recently appointed for each of Penn State’s intercollegiate athletic teams who are report to the athletic director and the Council regarding any problems which have arisen within a program and any corrective action taken in response.

Security at the University has become a higher priority. Mitchell reports that he has facilitated work with Guidepost Solutions, LLC “to assess and provide recommendations regarding physical security issues” for PennState’s athletics.  A team from the company was present for one home football game weekend last November “during which the Guidepost representatives participated in a series of operations and security meetings from Thursday through Saturday and observed the security measures that were applied effectively by Penn State and its contractors for that event.” Guidepost will also assist with the review of recreational facilities and areas frequented by children or used in children’s programs on campus.

Several other recommendations will be completed in the near future and should be detailed in Mitchell’s next report which should be released in May 2013.With Sandusky criminal case over and students and alumni now firmly entrenched in the terms of the sanctions and prospective changes, there are plenty who are watching to ensure that the remedial measures at Penn State are being properly managed and tracked. The hope is that a change in practice will equate to a change in culture which will bury the Sandusky scandal as best possible.

Mitchell Report

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