Penn State, Big Ten respond to NCAA sanction reductions

Penn State released a statement Tuesday in response to the NCAA reducing scholarship restrictions on the football team. Read the full release in this post, plus watch our #BTNLive interview with Bill O’Brien.

[ MORE: NCAA to gradually restore Penn State scholarships | Dienhart: NCAA made 'correct call' ]

Here’s the full release:

Penn State officials are gratified by the decision of the NCAA Executive Committee to modify the scholarship limitations previously imposed on the University under the consent decree between the University and the NCAA. This action, announced today, taken in recognition of Penn State’s significant progress under and continued compliance with the Athletics Integrity Agreement, grants immediate relief from both the initial scholarship restrictions and overall team limit restrictions previously imposed on the University’s football program. This modification will restore a total of 65 scholarship opportunities for football student athletes wanting to attend Penn State.

Specifically, the amendment to the consent decree increases the limit on initial football scholarships from 15 to 20 for the 2014-2015 academic year, and from 15 to 25 for each of the next three seasons. In addition, the amendment increases the overall football team limit of 65 total scholarships to allow for 75 total scholarships in the 2014-2015 academic year, 80 total scholarships in the 2015-2016 academic year, and 85 total scholarships (the NCAA limit for football) for each of the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 academic years.

“The action taken today by the NCAA, following its review of the positive report issued this month by Sen. George Mitchell, recognizes the significant efforts over the past year to make Penn State a safer, stronger institution,” said Penn State President Rodney Erickson. “This news is certainly welcome to our University community, particularly the student athletes who may want to attend Penn State and will now have the means to do so. As we promised throughout this process, we are committed to continuing to improve all of our policies, procedures and actions.”

Sen. Mitchell is the independent, third-party athletics integrity monitor for Penn State who published a report on Sept. 6 indicating that Penn State has substantially completed the initial implementation of all of the Freeh recommendations and all of its annual obligations under the Athletics Integrity Agreement (AIA). The report includes Mitchell’s impartial external review of Penn State’s efforts to implement the 119 recommendations made by Judge Louis Freeh in July 2012. Under the AIA, the University was obligated to take all reasonable steps to implement the recommendations by Dec. 31, 2013. The University, the NCAA and the Big Ten Conference entered into the AIA in August 2012 as part of the consent decree imposed by the NCAA. The agreement contains a number of prescriptive measures designed to ensure that the University continues to meet or exceed all applicable NCAA and Big Ten rules and standards of integrity.

Erickson thanked Head Coach Bill O’Brien for his leadership during this critical time and for his dedication to his players and to the University through the past two difficult seasons. He also acknowledged the work of student athletes, both on the field and in the classroom.

“The resiliency displayed by those young men, as well as our entire student body is something of which we are proud,” Erickson said. “I would also like to thank the literally hundreds of University administrators, faculty, staff and students whose hard work over the past 15 months helped lay the groundwork not only for this action by the NCAA but, even more importantly, for a better Penn State.”

Director of Athletics Dave Joyner and Bill O’Brien had this to say:

“I am very happy for Coach O’Brien, the football coaches and staff and the players; especially pleased for our current and future student-athletes, who are the most important reason why we love working in intercollegiate athletics. We will continue to work hard within the Athletics Integrity Agreement to fully comply and to achieve excellence in everything we do at Penn State.” – Dave Joyner

“Today’s announcement by the NCAA is tremendous news. As a staff, we are especially pleased for our players, who have proven themselves to be a resilient a group of young men. Penn State has long been known for graduating its student-athletes and providing them with a world-class education. The scholarship additions will allow us to provide more student-athletes with a tremendous opportunity to earn that degree and play football for Penn State.” – Bill O’Brien

And here’s the Big Ten’s release:

Earlier today the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) held a teleconference to announce a modification to the sanctions set forth in the Consent Decree that the NCAA entered into with Penn State on July 23, 2012.

The NCAA’s decision to modify the Consent Decree was based strongly on the recommendations of Senator George Mitchell who has been serving since August 2012 as the independent Athletics Integrity Monitor responsible for overseeing Penn State’s implementation of the reforms set forth in the Athletics Integrity Agreement (AIA).  The AIA was entered into on August 29, 2012 by the NCAA, the Big Ten Conference and Penn State as one of the requirements of the Consent Decree.

As a party to the AIA, the Big Ten, through its Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COPC), met with Senator Mitchell on Tuesday, September 17, 2013 and received his report on Penn State’s progress in complying with the reform requirements of the AIA.  Senator Mitchell’s briefing included a recommendation to modify the NCAA sanctions in the Consent Decree related to scholarships based on the significant progress that Penn State has made to date in its compliance and reform efforts.  He made no other recommendations to modify any other sanctions at this time.

“On the basis of Senator Mitchell’s briefing, the COPC reached consensus to support his recommendation to the NCAA,” said COPC Chair and Iowa President, Sally Mason.  “We support the NCAA’s announcement today acting on that recommendation.”

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