A Penn State trustee says he'll appeal NCAA sanctions

Penn State trustee Ryan J. McCombie.
Penn State trustee Ryan J. McCombie.
Posted: August 08, 2012

A Pennsylvania State University trustee said Monday that he was trying to appeal the NCAA's sanctions against the university that resulted from the Jerry Sandusky child-sex-abuse scandal.

In letters to fellow members of the board of trustees and to the NCAA - the main governing body of college sports in the United States - Ryan J. McCombie argued that the investigation led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh lacked due process and should not have been used as a basis for the sanctions.

McCombie also challenged the authority of Penn State president Rodney Erickson to enter into a consent decree with the NCAA about the sanctions.

"I know my actions will be poorly received by some on this board and in the community at large. To that end it would be easier to remain silent and allow these unfair actions to remain unchallenged. I cannot do this," McCombie wrote to his fellow board members.

NCAA spokesman Bob Williams on Monday evening reiterated his response to a similar appeal plan that Joe Paterno's family announced Friday.

"The Penn State sanctions are not subject to appeal," Williams said.

David La Torre, a spokesman for Penn State, said the university had no comment.

The Freeh report, released July 12, said that Paterno, Penn State's revered football coach; former university president Graham B. Spanier; and other top administrators had conspired since 1998 to conceal sex-abuse allegations against Sandusky, Paterno's longtime defensive coordinator.

On July 23, the NCAA announced its penalties, including a $60 million fine. The NCAA imposed a four-year postseason ban on the football team and vacated all Penn State football victories from 1998 through 2011. Scholarships for football players also were cut.

University officials have said that Penn State could have received a four-year ban on playing football - the "death penalty" - if Erickson did not agree to the sanctions.

The full board of trustees did not review or vote on the agreement beforehand.

On McCombie's behalf, lawyers Paul V. Kelly and Gregg E. Clifton sent a notice of appeal to the NCAA saying that they intended to "challenge each and every one of the sanctions."

The lawyers argued that Freeh report "was never intended as a foundational platform for punitive action by the NCAA."

The sanctions are "excessive and unreasonable" and "inflict permanent damage to an entire generation of student-athletes and coaches who were innocent of any wrongdoing during their time on campus," the lawyers wrote.

Contact Robert Moran at 215-854-5983 or bmoran@phillynews.com, or follow @RobertMoran215 on Twitter.

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