Franco Harris embarks on quest to lessen Penn State sanctions
By Debra Erdley
Published: Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Franco Harris is on a mission to visit all 18 NCAA board members seeking leniency for Penn State University to restore some of his alma mater's erased gridiron glory.
The Hall of Fame former Pittsburgh Steelers running back began his quest on Tuesday in California, where he tried to meet with UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and Timothy White, chancellor of the University of California, Riverside. Harris said neither made himself available.
He's not sure whether any of the NCAA board members will see him, but he's determined to press his case.
“Is he on a fool's errand? Who knows? I think all of us who work and live in the NCAA world have been watching this whole thing because it is such an aberration,” said Stephen Morgan, a lawyer and former NCAA Division I chief of staff.
Harris, 62, of Sewickley said the NCAA's sanctions in the Jerry Sandusky child-sex scandal were a rushed judgment against the university and the late head football coach Joe Paterno. They included a $60 million fine, a ban from post-season bowl play and elimination of 111 victories from 1998 to 2011.
He didn't detail his itinerary. Board members work at places such as the University of South Florida, Utah State University and Rice University in Texas.
Harris wants them to consider reinstating at least six years of Paterno's wins. He argues that during the first three years of the period, law enforcement had cleared Sandusky, a former assistant coach, and in the final three years the matter was in the hands of the state attorney general, who he said could have filed charges much sooner.
Paterno died in January, two months after university trustees fired him in the wake of the Sandusky scandal. Sandusky, 68, is awaiting sentencing for his conviction in June for sexually molesting 10 boys.
“This happened to someone very dear to me. But I really believe everyone deserves due process and this hurt the university,” said Harris, adding he will be at Penn State on Saturday to cheer the Nittany Lions when they begin their first season in six decades without Paterno.
Harris said he never imagined himself calling on college presidents.
“But then I never imagined anything like this could happen. I'm still trying to come to grips with it,” he said.
Neither Block, who aides said was traveling on Tuesday and Wednesday, nor White could be reached for comment.
Penn State trustee Anthony Lubrano, a critic of the investigative report cited by the NCAA in its sanctions, commended Harris.
“Penn Staters take strength from Franco's unselfish acts on behalf of their alma mater. I just wish we had more Franco Harrises in this world,” Lubrano said.
Sandy Deveney, a Harris classmate, said it would be a mistake to underestimate him.
“I don't know if I'd try to cold call people of that stature. But it's not Sandy Deveney knocking on their doors; it's Franco Harris. The man is on a mission,” Deveney said.
Josephine Potuto, a University of Nebraska law professor and former member of the NCAA Infractions Committee, said she has never heard of anything quite like Harris' quest.
“I doubt very much that it will harm Penn State, but I also can't imagine it will help,” she said.
The investigative report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh concluded that Paterno and other top university officials concealed allegations about Sandusky.
University officials and the leadership of its board of trustees accepted the report and the NCAA sanctions, but others, including some trustees, former players, alumni and a group of faculty leaders, have lambasted the findings.
Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Kovacevic: Big Ben’s contract clock ticking
- Parking tickets in Downtown Pittsburgh spark outrage
- NTSB: Corroded pipe, lack of inspections led to gas explosion
- Talented center Sutter is proving to be ‘pretty important’ for Penguins
- Taillon among 6 Pirates send to minor league camp
- Analysis: Kesler still on Pens’ radar as Shero aims to bring back ‘Big 3’
- Penn State’s Franklin cherishes memories of time spent in Pittsburgh
- LaBar: WWE’s next stars have arrived
- Jury selection begins in Jordan Miles’ second case against police
- Penguins notebook: Beau Bennett returns to practice
- Agent confirms Mendenhall retiring from NFL