Penn State administrators said they are considering our options after it was revealed Wednesday that the NCAA bluffed the school into accepting harsh sanctions against its football program in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal in 2012.
Internal NCAA e-mails discussing the Penn State situation became public this week as part of Pennsylvania State Senator Jake Corman's lawsuit against the organization. Court documents connected to the suit revealed the e-mails, in which NCAA officials spoke of pressuring PSU into accepting the sanctions even though it realized it may not have had jurisdiction in the matter.
Penn State ultimately accepted what were then described as unprecedented sanctions, and school officials said they did so under the NCAA's threat of the so-called death penalty against the football program. The NCAA never investigated the case, instead relying on PSU's in-house Freeh Report as the basis for the sanctions.
One e-mail, written by then-NCAA vice president of enforcement Julie Roe Lach a week and a half before the sanctions were announced, mentioned NCAA president Mark Emmert and spoke specifically of a bluff.
I characterized our approach to PSU as a bluff when talking to Mark yesterday afternoon after the call, Lach wrote to another NCAA official. He basically agreed b/c I think he understands that if we make this an enforcement issue, we may win the immediate battle but lose the war.
That e-mail was in response to one from NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs Kevin Lennon. Lennon wrote, in part: I know we are banking on the fact school is so embarrassed they will do anything.
Penn State president Eric Barron (shown above), who came to the university from Florida State earlier this year, and Board of Trustees chair Keith Masser released the following statement after learning of the e-mails.
“We find it deeply disturbing that NCAA officials in leadership positions would consider bluffing one of their member institutions, Penn State, to accept sanctions outside of their normal investigative and enforcement process.”
We find it deeply disturbing that NCAA officials in leadership positions would consider bluffing one of their member institutions, Penn State, to accept sanctions outside of their normal investigative and enforcement process.
We are considering our options. It is important to understand, however, that Penn State is in the midst of a number of legal and civil cases associated with these matters. We therefore have no additional comment.
We also want it to be clear. Penn State's commitment to the fight against child abuse and to the implementation of best practice governance, ethics and compliance programs and policies remains steadfast.
The sanctions against Penn State football included severe scholarship cutbacks and postseason bans, both of which have since been repealed. Players were also allowed to transfer without penalty. Two seasons later, first-year coach James Franklin is operating with fewer than 50 active original scholarship players.
Further, the school forfeited more than 100 wins and was fined $60 million.
Corman's suit seeks to use the $60 million PSU was fined by the NCAA to help abuse victims in Pennsylvania, as opposed to the NCAA's insistence that it decide where the money is used.
Ironically, had the NCAA not fought to take that money out of Pennsylvania, the e-mails in question may never have become public. Corman's suit is asking a judge to review 477 other documents the NCAA has declined to release.