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Executive Committee to gradually restore Penn State scholarships

Mitchell commends university’s continued progress, commitment to improvement

Listen to the press conference

Due to Penn State University’s continued progress toward ensuring athletics integrity, the NCAA Executive Committee is gradually restoring football scholarships the university lost because of sanctions more than a year ago. These changes were endorsed by the Division I Board of Directors and based on the recommendation of George Mitchell, the independent Athletics Integrity Monitor for Penn State and former U.S. Senator.

“While there is more work to be done, Penn State has clearly demonstrated its commitment to restoring integrity in its athletics program,” said Mitchell. “The university has substantially completed the initial implementation of all the Freeh Report recommendations and its obligations to the Athletics Integrity Agreement, so relief from the scholarship reductions is warranted and deserved.”

Consistent with Mitchell’s recommendation, the Executive Committee agreed the existing postseason ban, $60 million fine to help fund child abuse programs and other sanctions outlined in the consent decree will remain in effect. However, the group may consider additional mitigation of the postseason ban in the future depending upon Penn State’s continued progress.

“Providing relief from the scholarship restrictions will give more student-athletes an opportunity to attend Penn State on athletics scholarship while also creating an incentive for the university to continue its progress under new leadership after President Erickson’s impending departure,” said Mitchell.

Penn State scholarships gradually restored

Penn State’s original sanctions included a limit of 15 initial scholarships (from 25) per year from 2013-14 through 2016-17 and a limit of 65 total scholarships (from 85) per year from 2014-15 through 2017-18.

The leadership of the Executive Committee met with the Division I Board of Directors and presidents from the Big Ten Conference prior to taking a vote on the action. During these discussions, Mitchell briefed the group on his work to date and the university’s compliance with the Athletics Integrity Agreement.  

“The decision is the result of a thoughtful and deliberative process to ensure we reached the most appropriate outcome,” said Rita Hartung Cheng, who chaired the recent Executive Committee meetings regarding Senator Mitchell’s annual report and chancellor of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. “During our discussions, we had the benefit of engaging with Senator Mitchell’s expert perspective and the views of our Big Ten colleagues.”

The Executive Committee expressed its appreciation of Mitchell’s oversight of the process.

“We would like to thank Senator Mitchell for his meticulous oversight and guidance throughout this process,” said LouAnna Simon, chair of the Executive Committee and president of Michigan State University. “His dedication, as well as Penn State’s commitment to improvement, has paved the way for continued improvement for the university.”

 Mitchell will continue to work with Penn State as it seeks to complete the Athletics Integrity Agreement.

“The goal has always been to ensure the university reinforces clear expectations and a daily mindset within athletics that the highest priority must be placed on educating, nurturing and protecting young people,” said NCAA President Mark Emmert. “The Executive Committee’s decision to restore the football scholarships provides additional education opportunities and is an important recognition of Penn State’s progress.”

Year

Initial

Total

2014-15

20

75

2015-16

25

80

2016-17

25

85

2017-18

25

85

 

Penn State’s original sanctions included a limit of 15 initial scholarships (from 25) per year from 2013-14 through 2016-17 and a limit of 65 total scholarships (from 85) per year from 2014-15 through 2017-18.

 

Why did the NCAA Executive Committee reduce the sanctions?

This action is based on the recommendation of former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, the independent Athletics Integrity Monitor for Penn State, and was endorsed by the Division I Board of Directors. Because the Big Ten signed the Athletics Integrity Agreement, the Executive Committee sought the conference’s input.

This decision is intended to acknowledge Penn State’s progress in implementing the Athletics Integrity Agreement, as identified by Senator Mitchell, and to provide additional scholarship opportunities for football student-athletes.

How did the Executive Committee make this decision?

The Executive Committee employed a thoughtful, deliberative process to make its decision. All Executive Committee members had access to a common information base ahead of the meetings, so that regardless of previous involvement in this matter, everyone had access to all relevant information. The Executive Committee’s discussions included an opportunity to review what is known, to dialogue about what it could do, including pros and cons of various options and finally, thoughtful deliberation using a consensus-based approach. To inform the discussions, the Executive Committee had the benefit of not only engaging with Senator Mitchell and fully understanding his perspectives but also accessing the views of the Big Ten presidents and chancellors.

Why did the Executive Committee choose to act now?

Based on a recommendation from Senator Mitchell after he issued his first AIA annual report, the Executive Committee decided to examine the sanctions. The Executive Committee’s actions now give Penn State a reasonable amount of time to increase the number of scholarship offers for next academic year.

Why didn’t the bowl ban get reduced?

This action is intended to acknowledge Penn State’s progress in implementing the Athletics Integrity Agreement, as identified by Senator Mitchell. This action will also provide additional scholarship opportunities for football student-athletes.

Will the Executive Committee consider lifting or reducing the fine?

The $60 million fine to help fund child abuse programs will remain in effect as outlined in the consent decree. Elimination, reduction or limiting the national-nature of the fine was not considered. The $60 million fine will create an endowment to help fund child abuse prevention programs and assist victims of child abuse.

Is there further opportunity for the remaining sanctions to be reduced?

Yes, additional mitigation may be considered in the future depending upon Penn State’s continued progress. This action gives more student-athletes an opportunity to attend Penn State on scholarship while creating an incentive for the university to continue improving under new leadership.

What progress has Penn State made?

Penn State has substantially completed the initial implementation of over 120 tasks outlined in the Athletics Integrity Agreement.  They have hired their first Chief Compliance Officer and their first Athletics Integrity Officer.  Penn State also has taken steps to ensure that there is appropriate oversight of intercollegiate athletics at the highest levels of the University’s leadership.

What if Penn State fails to uphold the AIA moving forward?

Senator Mitchell will continue to monitor the school’s AIA. With the significant progress Penn State has made to date on implementing the Freeh Report recommendations and the AIA, the Executive Committee is confident the school will continue implementing the measures.