BOT Supports Erickson And Moving Forward, Some Still Question NCAA

STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 11: Penn State Interim President Rodney Erickson walks to the lectern before speaking at a press conference at the Nittany Lion Inn, November 11, 2011 in State College, Pennsylvania. Erickson announced that Penn State Assistant Coach Mike McQueary, who was a witness to former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky allegedly abusing a 10-year-old boy in the shower in 2002, will be placed on administrative leave. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

The Penn State Board of Trustees met on a conference call Sunday night to discuss the consent decree signed by President Rodney Erickson, accepting the sanctions imposed by the NCAA in response to the Freeh Report and the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal.

The meeting almost didn't get started as both Trustees Joel Myers and Anthony Lubrano asked for the meeting to be adjourned due to possible violation of the Sunshine Act which states that notice of meetings must be given 10 days ahead of a scheduled meeting time. Since Chairwoman Karen Peetz said no motions or votes were being taken during the call, she ignored the motion for adjournment and began the meeting.

Gene Marsh, an NCAA compliance expert, tried to explain the NCAA's point of view, saying that most directors were looking for a multi-year death penalty to change the culture at Penn State. Erickson followed up on that by saying NCAA president Mark Emmert told him that the board was "out for blood". Marsh made sure to let the Board know that the NCAA doesn't have to follow a normal "due process" distinction as was outlined in the Jerry Tarkanian case in 1988. The NCAA also holds a different, much lower standard for a burden of proof which is why they were able to take the Freeh Report at its word and making a decision on sanctions based on it.

President Erickson then made a statement, saying that signing the consent decree was the hardest thing he had to do in 40 years in education. The day after the Freeh Report came out, Emmert called him saying to put away the investigation letter he had sent Penn State back in November and to sign the consent decree to avoid the death penalty. Erickson cited the local economy, possibly expulsion from the Big Ten and moving forward as reasons for signing the decree.

Lastly, Erickson did allude to a conversation with football coach Bill O'Brien where BOB simply asked for the team to be able to play and for them to be able to play on television.

University counsel Steve Dunham then come on the line to say that university papers state the Erickson was well within his rights to sign the consent decree on behalf of Penn State without full Board approval. After a further discussion on what due process means (check @LC_Nichols for some good tweets on this), Trustee Ken Frazier, who commissioned the Freeh committee, spoke after, summing up his statements by saying, "The Board of Trustees accepts full responsibility for the failures that occurred, period."

Each individual trustee then provided a brief statement before the call ended. A majority threw the support behind Erickson and said that the university now needs to move on and face these sanctions head-on. Some highlights:

  • Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett lauded Erickson for making a tough call in selecting the lesser of two very severe punishments. He also said that he thought the NCAA overstepped their bounds, but that "it is a discussion for another day."
  • New trustee Ryan McCombie didn't make a long statement, but did say he is informing his counsel that he will not be seeking legal recourse against the NCAA.
  • The only uproar among trustees during their statements came from Anthony Lubrano, who stated while that he still respected Erickson, he could not support his decision. He also brought up former coach Joe Paterno by stating that "...Paterno had more integrity in his pinky finger than the NCAA President does in his body." He was also critical of the fact that Bill O'Brien was consulted on the decree while he and the majority of the Board was not.

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