Further relief from sanctions possible

Former U.S. senator George Mitchell was hired by the NCAA to oversee Penn State. (Robert F. Bukaty/AP file photo)
Former U.S. senator George Mitchell was hired by the NCAA to oversee Penn State. (Robert F. Bukaty/AP file photo)
Former U.S. senator George Mitchell was hired by the NCAA to oversee Penn State. (Robert F. Bukaty/AP file photo)GALLERY: Former U.S. senator George Mitchell was hired by the NCAA…
Posted: November 25, 2013

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, the athletics integrity monitor for Penn State, has suggested that further relief from NCAA sanctions for the football program could be possible next year when he makes his annual report, and that a lifting of the bowl ban could be on the table.

In an address Friday to the Penn State board of trustees, Mitchell said university president Rodney Erickson and his administration have "demonstrated an unwavering commitment to fulfilling the requirements of the athletics integrity agreement," created as a condition of the sanctions brought about by the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

He said his report for 2014 could provide for a lessening of other sanctions, adding he will "consider whether it's appropriate and justified to recommend further relief."

Mitchell stopped short of specifying which sanctions could be eased. He did acknowledge that eliminating the bowl ban could be considered.

In response to Mitchell's 2013 report, the NCAA modified the scholarship restrictions it imposed as part of the sanctions, allowing Penn State to sign 20 freshmen in 2014 instead of 15, and the FBS maximum of 25 in 2015. The number of overall scholarships was increased from 65 to 75 in 2014, to 80 in 2015, and to the FBS maximum of 85 in 2016.

Belton sidelined. After coming out on the field and trying to get loose before Penn State began pregame warm-ups Saturday, junior running back Bill Belton changed out of uniform and did not see any action against Nebraska.

"He was hurt," coach Bill O'Brien said. "He had a bad shoulder and could not practice. He also had strep throat, so we kept him out."

Belton, a junior from Winslow Township High, entered the game as the Lions' top rusher with 796 yards. Junior Zach Zwinak, who had been sharing time with Belton, carried the ball on 35 of Penn State's 44 rushing plays and gained 149 yards.

The next chapter. Offensive tackle Gary Gilliam, a fifth-year junior, was one of three players with one year of eligibility remaining who informed O'Brien that he wouldn't be returning next season.

"I decided not to come back because you get to a point where it's time for the next chapter," Gilliam said.

"I've been thinking about it all year and I kind of thought that by this time I'd know what I wanted to do. I talked to Coach O'Brien and we went through the pros and cons of the situation. He agreed with my decision and wished me the best of luck with whatever I decided I was going to do."

The 6-foot-6, 303-pound Gilliam said he will train and participate in Penn State's pro day next year and seek tryouts with NFL teams.

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