Talks are said to be underway between the NCAA, school administrators at Pennsylvania State University, and state officials aimed at softening some of the sanctions imposed on the school in 2011 as a result of the sex-crime scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
A series of punishments levied on the university after the scandal included the NCAA vacating 111 victories, which dropped head coach Joe Paterno from the all-time winningest college coach to 12th on the list. The NCAA also barred the school’s football team from bowl games — the Nittany Lions returned to postseason action with a win over BC in the Pinstripe Bowl in December — and handed out scholarship reductions. The school also had to pay a $60 million fine on top of the nearly $60 million settlement it has already paid out to victims.
Sources inside the school now say that Penn State officials seek to re-negotiate some of the punishments meted out and convince the NCAA to use the $60 million fine for child protection in sports. Many hope to see the 111 vacated wins restored to Paterno’s record.
The negotiations come just ahead of a lawsuit filed by State Treasurer Robert McCord and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman that challenges the validity of the NCAA’s sanctions.
Senator Corman noted that he has not agreed with any new settlement proposals and is not party to any reported negotiations. “While I am open to conversations on a possible resolution, to be sure, any settlement will be judged upon what is best for the commonwealth,” the senator said on Monday.
For his part, Treasurer McCord said that he would support any settlement that “brings about an equitable resolution” to the matter.
A representative for the board elected by Penn State alumni to oversee the scandal told university officials that they wanted to be told about what was going on and were “skeptical” about any settlement ideas.
“We do not know its terms but are naturally skeptical of a proposal designed by only those trustees complicit in the travesties of 2011, 2012, and 2013,” Trustees Anthony Lubrano and Al Lord wrote in an email. “As chair and vice chair during these periods, you should be particularly mindful of the real and perceived conflict potential your leadership decisions have.”
However, Chairman of the Penn State Board of Trustees Keith Masser denied that there have been any settlement proposals and said that if any were to arise, the matter would be handled in the appropriate way.
Masser also warned that it would be “very damaging to the university to publicly discuss the possible terms of settlement of any litigation under discussion.” He did not clarify what that meant.
Last September, the NCAA announced ending some of the school’s punishments only halfway through the four-year sentence.
“In light of Penn State’s responsiveness to its obligations and the many improvements it has instituted, I believe these student-athletes should have the opportunity to play in the postseason should they earn it on the field this year,” said former U.S. Senator George Mitchell in his second annual report as Penn State’s athletics integrity monitor.
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