McCombie is a retired U.S. Navy SEAL captain from State College who was elected to the board by alumni a year ago. He was supported by Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, a group formed in the aftermath of the scandal involving former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, now in prison for abusing young boys. The group, which has been supportive of the late Joe Paterno, also was successful in getting all three of the candidates it supported elected to alumni seats on the board in May.
Maribeth Schmidt, a spokeswoman for the group, said electing McCombie as vice chair would be a way for the 32-member board to demonstrate good faith toward the alumni.
"We would view it as they have finally heard us, and are giving some respect toward the alumni view," she said.
McCombie is one of five trustees who joined the suit against the NCAA filed in Centre County Court by the Paterno family and others.
McCombie will compete against Paul Silvis, founder of Restek Corp., a chromatography company; and Linda Strumpf, retired chief investment officer of the Helmsley Charitable Trust in New York, according to sources.
The election will take place on July 12, when the board meets at the university's Fayette campus in Western Pennsylvania.
Neither McCombie nor Strumpf, who was appointed to the board in 2003, returned calls for comment.
Silvis, who lives in State College and has been on the board since 2010, said other board members had encouraged him to run.
"I've been in State College. I've been involved for a good while," he said. "I'm entrepreneurial. I'm good at solving problems and bringing people together."
Contact Susan Snyder at 215-854-4693, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter @ssnyderinq. Read her blog at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/campus_inq.