Penn State Board of Trustees meets to discuss preisdent, NCAA sanctions
Penn State trustees said they are satisfied with university President Rodney Erickson's leadership after an unscheduled closed-door meeting on Wednesday night, where they were told Erickson accepted unprecedented sanctions against the football program to avoid a possible four-year shutdown.
The penalties for the university's actions surrounding the Jerry Sandusky child sexual-abuse scandal included a $60 million fine, a four-year ban on postseason bowl play, the invalidation of all of coach Joe Paterno's victories between 1998 and 2011, the loss of 40 scholarships and a provision permitting players to transfer and begin playing for other schools immediately.
Although some questioned whether Erickson had the authority to accept those sanctions without consulting the trustees, Penn State spokesman David La Torre said Erickson did not need the approval of the full board.
After the hastily convened meeting, the board issued a written statement endorsing Erickson's decision:
“The Board finds the punitive sanctions difficult and the process with the NCAA unfortunate. But as we understand it, the alternatives were worse as confirmed by NCAA President Mark Emmert's recent statement that Penn State was likely facing a multi-year death sentence,” the statement read in part.
Emmert said other penalties likely would have accompanied a shutdown of the program.
Questions about Erickson's communications with the board were asked less than two weeks after former FBI Director Louis Freeh delivered an investigative report, commissioned by the trustees, that condemned the board for a lack of oversight in the months leading up to the arrest of Sandusky, 68.
The report, which became the basis for the NCAA's penalties, faulted top university leaders including the late Paterno for concealing allegations about Sandusky.
Last month, the retired assistant football coach was convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period.
Freeh's investigation called for more transparency in operations and regular communications between the university president and trustees.
Melissa Melewsky, media counsel for the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publishers' Association, questioned whether Wednesday's session met the requirements of the state's Open Meeting Act. In its statement, the board insisted the gathering was a “discussion,” not a meeting.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or firstname.lastname@example.org.