(AP) Penn State trustees took no formal vote but the vast majority of members voiced support Sunday for the university president’s acceptance of tough penalties imposed by the NCAA over the university’s handling of its child molestation scandal.
Hear the Board of Trustees’ conference call:
Board chairwoman Karen Peetz told fellow trustees during a Sunday evening conference call that the panel could not vote because 10 days’ notice of the meeting was required, an objection two members raised at the outset of the call. But more than two dozen members of the 32-member board then voiced support for President Rodney Erickson’s decision and a desire to move forward, although many criticized the NCAA sanctions themselves.
The NCAA, citing “an unprecedented failure of institutional integrity leading to a culture in which a football program was held in higher esteem” than the university’s values, last month barred the school from postseason play for four years, fined it $60 million, stripped it of future scholarships and invalidated 112 of the football team’s wins over the handling of abuse complaints against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted in June of 45 child sexual abuse counts.
Gene Marsh, an attorney and former NCAA infractions official, told trustees Sunday that attempts to mitigate the sanctions went nowhere and they were essentially forced on the university. He said most NCAA board members favored the so-called “death penalty” – total shutdown of the football program – for multiple years, and even more sanctions beyond that.
“I was also told that the NCAA board thought it was the worst case of loss of institutional control they had ever seen, and that an even greater issue on their mind beyond the acts of individuals was the idea of a `culture problem’ at Penn State,” he said.
Erickson told trustees that he was told that an overwhelming majority of NCAA officials “wanted blood” and the consent decree was “a take-it-or-leave-it proposition” – and any leak of details would take the deal off the table. After consulting with the university’s executive committee and receiving legal advice that he had the power to do so, he signed the agreement, he said.
“I have to tell you that this was far and away the most difficult decision I’ve ever made in my 40-year professional career,” he said. He said losing the football program for several years would have harmed that program, possibly including expulsion from the Big 10 conference, as well as other sports programs, and “an empty stadium for multiple years would have a drastic impact on the economy of central Pennsylvania and beyond.”