PS4RS Letter to the NCAA

Subject: Pennsylvania State University

Date: July 22, 2012
Dr. Emmert,

The undersigned is counsel to Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship (“PS4RS”), a group of over 5,000 individuals affiliated with Pennsylvania State University (the “University”) as alumni, students, benefactors, and friends. This email is in relation to your proposed announcement of “unprecedented” sanctions against the University in connection with certain criminal actions of a former Assistant Football Coach and tenured professor emeritus at the University.

Time and space prevent me from outlining that which you already know – your organization is wholly without power to sanction the University for the events related to the above. It is beyond comprehension how the NCAA can possibly believe it has the power to control events that do not violate NCAA rules, nor how the NCAA can issue punishment without ever even launching an investigation in accordance with your own rules. However, we can, at this point, agree to disagree on that issue, though you can be most certain that the issue will be addressed.

The immediate issue relates to the concept of imposing sanctions on the University based, in whole or in part, upon the findings of an internal investigation commissioned by the University’s Board of Trustees (“BoT”) and conducted by the private law firm of Freeh, Sporkin & Sullivan (“FSS”). The investigation culminated in a 267 page report (the “FSS Report”) which was issued on July 12, 2012.

My client has engaged our firm to conduct a comprehensive review of the FSS Report. While we have only begun our work, upon even a cursory review, we have determined that the FSS Report is fraught with factual and legal errors, filled with opinions and unsupported conclusions, and, in a word, faulty. To rely on such a report to issue punishment of any kind would be beyond reckless.

Lest you be misled by the frenzied media reports, the FSS Report, and the individuals who were paid to conduct it, are far from infallible. In this regard, I would refer you to the recent decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport in connection with an alleged election bribery case involving a former FIFA presidential candidate. In its decision, that Court lifted a lifetime ban on the individual based, in part, upon the fact that that an internal investigation by FSS on behalf of FIFA, which led to the ban, was “not complete or comprehensive enough to fill the gaps in the record.” These same concerns, and more, are most certainly present here.

On behalf of my client, I urge you to reconsider your position. Knee-jerk reactions based upon faulty and incomplete information have been the hallmark of the events that have transpired at the University over the last 8 months. The FSS Report is less than 10 days old, and the 2 other University employees charged with crimes have not even had their day in Court. Should the NCAA move forward tomorrow, whether with the concurrence of the University’s administrators or not, you will add yet another sad chapter in a saga that simply has not been fully reviewed and, unfortunately, your actions will set in motion litigation that could be avoided if appropriate consideration is given to the actual facts.

Please be guided accordingly.

Robert J. Tribeck, Esquire
Rhoads & Sinon LLP
One South Market Square, 12th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17101
www.rhoads-sinon.com

8 thoughts on “PS4RS Letter to the NCAA

  1. It seems to me that we should move in court to stay the NCAA penalties under the basis that 1) The NCAA did not follow their own process by not investigating and 2) that they do not have jurisdiction in this matter because their by-laws do not cover such and item.

    That should be followed by a law suit regarding jurisdiction and defimation. We could then demand all of their records and pull apart their position and verify that they threatened a multi year death penalty if PSU did not agree with the exisiting penalties. Once that threat is established there will be further proof that the NCAA was outside of their jurisdiction and unravel the punishment.

    Additionally, we could show that the penalties hit the wrong people. If there was an error then the error was a lack of control by the BOT and not an athletic rules violation.

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  2. Nick, you describe exactly what the University should have said to the NCAA. unfortunately, they signed a consent decree which effectively precludes any legal challenges. Sorry.

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    1. The Paterno’s signed no such decree. For that matter, it appears as if the university did follow proper protocol in agreeing to terms.

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      1. Sorry, previous post should read that the university may NOT have followed proper protocol in agreeing to terms with the NCAA. This could make that agreement invalid.

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  3. As I understand it, the $60 million penalty fund, will come out monies generated by the football program and this fund can be used to compensate Sandusky’s victims — in addition to funding other initiatives related to stopping child abuse. If this is correct, then the University was smart to quickly sign off (please read with sarcastic voice). The penalty fund provides the University with a tool to fund the inevitable lawsuits without effecting any other University expenditure or program. If my information is accurate, this is one more example of expediency over integrity resulting in continued failed leadership.

    If fundamental transformation was really called for, then the entire University system would be affected. But Penn Staters know that our climate is one of the most positive influences we have on the young people. Courageous leadership would have acted with humility and determination to make restitution. AND they would have wielded their power to maintain Paterno’s legacy. Instead they abdicated it to others who closed in for the kill; who haven’t a clue what it means to succeed with honor. They have dragged us one weak decision after another into a hole that will forever change the Penn State experience. Their actions denigrate the Penn State Tradition. Joe would have found a way to make restitution with honor. He was Penn State.

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