Penn State notebook: NCAA rebuts report of eased PSU sanctions
DUBLIN — Calling a national media report from earlier this week “irresponsible,” the NCAA's chief legal officer on Friday insisted no decision has been made concerning further reduction of the sanctions the organization levied on the Penn State football program.
In an email to the Tribune-Review, Donald Remy said the NCAA is unsure what former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell will conclude in the next annual report he files in the coming weeks.
“Senator Mitchell is an independent athletics integrity monitor for Penn State and, as such, we will not know what recommendations he will make, if any at all,” Remy said via an email sent by NCAA spokesperson Emily James.
The Sporting News on Wednesday cited two unnamed sources within the NCAA indicating the Nittany Lions would be in position to regain postseason eligibility for the 2015 season — the final of four in which Penn State was banned in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual assault scandal.
The media report provoked the NCAA to respond, a departure from previous refusals to publicly comment on the upcoming Mitchell report or potential Penn State sanctions relief.
“It is important to note that any decision on the Penn State sanctions would be made by the NCAA Executive Committee, comprised of representatives of the membership,” Remy said. “Any speculation by sources or others without review of the (Mitchell) report is irresponsible.”
Last September, acting on Mitchell's recommendation, the NCAA lauded Penn State's “continued progress toward ensuring athletics integrity” in gradually restoring the school's football scholarship total over two years to its presanctions level.
It left intact, however, the final two seasons of a four-year bowl ban, a $60 million fine and the vacation of 111 wins over 13 prior seasons. Mitchell and the NCAA let it be known, though, that further positive progress by Penn State could lead to more sanctions forgiveness.
In July 2012, the NCAA took unprecedented action to penalize Penn State in response to conclusions former FBI director Louis Freeh reached through a $6 million, university-commissioned investigation after the Sandusky scandal surfaced.
Sandusky was sentenced to 45 counts of child sexual abuse in June 2012. In his controversial report, Freeh alleged Penn State officials conspired to cover up Sandusky's crimes.
More than 55,000 tickets have been sold for Saturday's Croke Park Classic game between Penn State and Central Florida, said Peter McKenna, commercial and stadium director for the Gaelic Athletic Association.
McKenna said 35,000 tickets were sold to Irish, 4,000 to fans in other European counties — mostly Germany, France and England — and 16,000 to fans who traveled from the United States.
About 6,000 were sold by Penn State via an official tour package or December Ticketmaster sale, said Jeff Garner, PSU's assistant athletic director for ticketing sales and service. Garner said Penn State's designated side of Croke Park Stadium is nearing capacity.
Those around Dublin report encountering scores more of Penn State fans than those from UCF. Dueling pep rallies downtown Thursday saw a massive discrepancy in the number of fans attending.
Croke Park Stadium, which normally has a capacity of about 83,000, will hold less than 70,000 on Saturday because the larger field surface means the first several rows of seats on the sides are covered as fans at that angle would not be able to see the action.
UCF coach George O'Leary, whose grandparents emigrated from Ireland to the U.S., was presented with an official Certificate of Irish Heritage during a Golden Knights pep rally.
“That's a massive, huge honor to bestow upon somebody,” McKenna said.
O'Leary said he intends on applying for dual citizenship after he retires from coaching. He acquired his grandparents' birth certificates as the first step in doing so.
Each team will be dispersed into multiple separate rooms in lieu of a single locker room Saturday. The stadium designed for Gaelic sports simply isn't accustomed to hosting teams with large rosters. … Crews painted lines on the field Friday. The scoreboard was tested. Taped announcements from both teams were played, as was traditional U.S. stadium music. … UCF held a walk-through Friday. Penn State did not.