Pols stump on behalf of Penn State

Posted: January 29, 2013

TWO PENNSYLVANIA congressmen want the NCAA to restore football scholarships taken away from Penn State, saying in a letter Monday those sanctions unfairly punish innocent student-athletes for the child sex abuse scandal involving retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

In the letter to NCAA president Mark Emmert, U.S. Reps. Charlie Dent and Glenn Thompson wrote that taking away up to 40 scholarships harmed players who had nothing to do with the scandal that engulfed the university in 2011.

"I want to make it clear to the NCAA who they are really hurting with this scholarship reduction. It's not Jerry Sandusky and it's not the university," Dent said in a statement. "They are hurting young people who are completely innocent of anything relating to the Sandusky situation and who through no fault of their own are being denied a chance to get a great education."

A spokeswoman for college sports' governing body said the NCAA was looking into the letter. A Penn State spokesman declined comment.

The NCAA sanctions limit Penn State's recruiting classes to no more than 15 signees a year for 4 years, starting with the 2013 class to be formally finalized next week. Most teams can sign 25.

Sanctions also include a 4-year postseason ban that began for the 2012 season and a $60 million fine.

If the request to restore scholarships is denied, the congressmen asked Emmert to deduct from the fine an amount equal to 40 scholarships so the school can use it instead to supply access to academic programs.

In announcing sanctions last July, Emmert drew the ire of some fans and alumni after the NCAA denounced the school for "perpetuating a 'football-first' culture that ultimately enabled serial child sexual abuse to occur."

Penn State historically has had high graduation rates for athletes. Dent cited in his letter NCAA data released last year showing the football team had a record graduation rate of 91 percent, which was tied with Rutgers for seventh among major college programs. The major college average was 68 percent.

The NCAA has come under increased scrutiny of late. The organization faces about a half-dozen lawsuits that could reshape how it does business.

Yes, Virginia bails

Penn State has gotten the boot from Virginia's 2013 schedule.

Virginia was supposed to visit Beaver Stadium on Sept. 14, the return trip after the Nittany Lions lost, 17-16, in Charlottesville last September.

But Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner said Monday in a statement that Virginia informed the Nittany Lions it wouldn't be visiting Happy Valley in order to play a home game, and that he hoped to find a replacement soon.

Separately, Virginia announced it scheduled a home-and-home series with Oregon, with the first game to be played in Charlottesville on Sept. 7.

Virginia executive associate athletic director Jon Oliver said in that statement announcing the Oregon series that the Cavs hoped to reschedule the rematch against Penn State. Joyner also said he hopes to reschedule.

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