(I'm not much of a news reporter, so hang with me here.)
This morning, emails that were filed to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania on Tuesday were released for public viewing. Needless to say, ESPN and Onward State (links) were and are all over the case already. The new emails give us information that helps to further define the relationship between former FBI chief executive Louis Freeh and the NCAA during the investigation that was commissioned and paid for by the Pennsylvania State University.
With the release of these emails, we find out that there appears to have been a significant amount of contact between Freeh and Mark Emmert/other officials within the NCAA throughout the process of his team's investigation of the school. Furthermore, the emails gave off the impression that the conclusions drawn by Freeh's final report were somewhat predetermined through the communication between the two sides.
NCAA office involved in the Freeh investigation of PSU? Really?! http://t.co/3jdeKzotk1 Perhaps an "integrity monitor" is appropriate.— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) November 12, 2014
Needless to say, Pennsylvania state senator Jake Corman is more than a little ticked off.
(From his quotes in the ESPN article)
Clearly the more we dig into this, the more troubling it gets. There clearly is a significant amount of communication between Freeh and the NCAA that goes way beyond merely providing information. I'd call it...coordination. Clearly, Freeh went way past his mandate. He was the enforcement person for the NCAA. That's what it looks like. I don't know how you can look at it any other way. It's almost like the NCAA hired him to do their enforcement investigation on Penn State.
At a minimum, it is inappropriate. At a maximum, these were two parties working together to get an outcome that was predetermined.
Corman went on to express his anger with the situation, and illustrate his thoughts on the NCAA's perceived focus on preserving their image.
I'm angry. When you read the other communications we've seen, the NCAA is saying we have an image problem. So it looks like the NCAA was looking to improve its own image at the expense of Penn State. And to do that, they were orchestrating an outcome with Freeh to make it happen...A lot of people were hurt by the sanctions brought down by the NCAA, and to think it was achieved possibly by this coordination by Freeh and the NCAA makes me very, very angry.
As we continue examining these emails, we are greeted with even further evidence from the NCAA members themselves, that they were very aware that this case was likely not one that should be handled by them, as it simply landed outside of their jurisdiction.
The article and new emails continued to hit on the fact that the NCAA seemed to be driven more by their desire to improve their image over anything else, by taking advantage of an easy target in Penn State.
The opinion of many at the time of the sanctions was something similar to what Spencer Hall of SB Nation wrote back in July 2012. He ended his article with the following quote:
The NCAA's punishments serve no purpose, solve no problems, and prevent nothing. They represent an organization desperate for relevance seizing the moment to poach some kind of sinister power-up from this moment. They will--and did--suggest the "children" are the reason for the reach, and do so without openly guffawing or flinching from the shame a normal, moral person would feel at that moment. They will use the word "culture" to defense what they do, mostly because using that word allows you to make up whatever you like without evidence, justification, or data.
If nothing else, these emails signal that Spencer, and so many others were right about the NCAA and their handling of the situation. And now, with the release of these emails, there aren't many places left for Mark Emmert and the rest of the National Collegiate Athletics Association to hide.
The act of the NCAA imposing sanctions on Penn State Football was once referred to by Gene Marsh of the Centre Daily Times as "like shooting road kill." Well it appears that the road kill has woken up, and is ready to put up a fight.
UPDATE: Both Penn State and the NCAA have released statements on the matter:
It has been public knowledge for almost three years that the University had agreed that the NCAA and the Big Ten Conference would monitor the progress of the Freeh investigation. While the NCAA may have made suggestions to the Freeh Group with respect to its investigation, the scope of the Freeh investigation was established by the Penn State Board of Trustees, as set forth in the Freeh engagement letter, not by the NCAA. The University’s preliminary review of the NCAA’s proposed questions suggests that there are many proposed questions that are not addressed in the final July 12, 2012 report.
NCAA (through an update to the ESPN article):
Officials from the Freeh group had no immediate response Wednesday. Remy said Corman's assertions are a "mischaracterization of the evidence" and "are inconsistent with the facts." "I think the communications between the Freeh group and the NCAA were consistent with the NCAA's commitment to cooperate with the Freeh group and our commitment to monitor the progress of that investigation," Remy said. "In no way do those documents demonstrate the NCAA was doing anything beyond that."