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.
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.
Beginning next academic year (2014-15), five additional initial scholarships will be restored to the university’s football team. This amount will continue to increase until they reach the full allocation of 25 initial in 2015-16 and 85 total football scholarships in 2016-17.
“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’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.”