Penn State trustees back decision to accept NCAA penalties

Posted: July 27, 2012

Pennsylvania State University's trustees on Wednesday backed university president Rodney Erickson's decision this week to accept crippling NCAA penalties against its football program, saying they now realize he had few other choices.

In a statement released after a three-hour, closed-door meeting, the trustees said they found "the punitive sanctions difficult and the process with the NCAA unfortunate."

"But as we understand it, the alternatives were worse," they added.

Also Wednesday, Gov. Corbett said he was concerned about the penalties' impact on current Penn State students. "The kids that are up there right now, whether they are students or the student-athletes, the members of that team, or the members of any other team, had nothing to do with this," he said. "And they are the ones that, unfortunately, are bearing the brunt of this."

The trustees' comments came after several board members privately criticized Erickson's decision to accept punishments that the NCAA handed down Monday in response to the university's handling of the Jerry Sandusky child-sex-abuse scandal. They included a $60 million fine, a four-year postseason ban, and the vacating of all the team's wins from 1998 through last year.

Erickson was not immediately available for comment Wednesday evening. But in an interview Monday, university spokesman David La Torre said that before the NCAA's final decision, the association had threatened to shut down Penn State's football program.

"It was clear Penn State faced an alternative - a long-term death penalty and additional sanctions for the program, university, and whole community," La Torre said. "Given the situation, Dr. Erickson believed the sanctions offered and accepted were the appropriate course of action."

NCAA president Mark Emmert confirmed, in a Wednesday interview with ESPN, that several members of its executive committee had floated a four-year death-penalty plan, but maintained that threats were never made.

In the days leading up to Monday's announcement, Erickson consulted with board president Karen Peetz and a handful of other trustees before signing the agreement with the association, sources close to the board said.

However, several trustees were angered that they found out about the penalties only on the day they were announced. They convened a meeting Wednesday to discuss whether Erickson had violated a board rule that says trustees must sign off on all "contracts, legal documents, and other obligations."

After emerging, no trustees agreed to speak publicly about their discussions. But their statement suggested Erickson was able to assuage some concerns. "The university and board resolve to move forward together to recognize the historical excellence in Penn State's academic and athletic programs," it read. "We anticipate and look forward to demonstrating our outstanding performance in complying with the sanctions."


Contact Jeremy Roebuck at 267-564-5218, jroebuck@phillynews.com, or follow @jeremyrroebuck on Twitter.

This article contains information from the Associated Press.

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