Ryan J. McCombie is a Member of the Pennsylvania State University Board of Trustees. He was elected by the Alumni to serve and his term expires in 2015. He is a former Navy Seal.

10 August 2012

To: The Pennsylvania State University Board of Trustees

As I noted during the Board meeting last Tuesday (August 7), my principal issue in this ongoing saga is the lack of fairness and due process that has been afforded the University and other parties, including persons completely innocent of any wrongdoing, at the hands of the NCAA. My focus in the protective notice of appeal that was filed, and in future proceedings that may be considered, will not be on the authority of President Erickson; rather, it will be on the unlawful and extortionate actions of the NCAA, and the “rush to judgment” that has occurred as a result. This Board should not become a part of this rush to judgment under the guise of attempting to put this matter behind us. So long as the full truth has yet to come out, and there has not been a fair and thorough adjudicative process, this institution will be unable to truly begin a healing process.

Everyone should understand that at the moment in time and under the circumstances that were presented to President Erickson, he faced truly draconian choices. Under the duress of the tyrannical and unbridled power of the NCAA – – power to impose sanctions and penalties not only on our University but an entire region of Pennsylvania – – President Erickson did what I believe most of us would have done. Standing before an almighty adversary with academic, economic and other lives at stake, bravado is seldom a good tactic. Our President knew that he could be criticized for his difficult decisions, but his responsibility was to protect and mitigate the damage that had been done to what he held dear and was responsible to defend. At that moment in time, I believe President Erickson acted with courage and self sacrifice.

It is however, the very imposition of these circumstances of unbridled power, lack of due process, and total lack of accountability by an organization which has acquired immense power, that I protest. By their own admission this was not a negotiation, it was a “cram down” intended to do grave damage to this University and its reputation.

When I see fear in the eyes and voices of University Presidents, Athletic Directors and coaches when discussing the NCAA, I know something has gone fundamentally wrong. No one should fear their government or governing body. The unchecked power of the NCAA and its ability to decree and impose penalties on its members, and by extension their communities, without due process or the rule of law – even their own – must be reviewed.

There have been a great many mistakes made in this Shakespearean tragedy, but it is culminating in the authority of an organization that has become too powerful and too willing to use that power well beyond its charter, by-laws or established precedent.

I have just had an opportunity to read the email by Joel Myers ( https://ps4rs.wordpress.com/2012/08/10/joel-n-myers-letter-to-the-board-of-trustees/) with his suggestions and proposals for moving forward on these issues. I fully support and endorse Mr. Myer’s recommendations and the reasons behind them. The NCAA’s consent decree, to which I take exception, criticizes this Board for failing to “perform its oversight duties” and for failing in its “duties to oversee the President and senior University officials.” We should not fall victim to these same fiduciary shortcomings now, simply because it will help take the attention off the NCAA or make it easier for them to deprive certain parties with their rights to have the decree reviewed by an independent appeals committee. To allow sufficient time for the full and deliberative review that Mr. Myers suggests, I will instruct my counsel to refrain from further prosecution of pending appeals or consideration of other legal actions. It is time to pause, reflect and be fully informed as a Board before casting further votes that will impact the present and future of this great University. Let’s not continue this rush to judgment and pursuit of closure for the sake of closure.

Ryan McCombie
August 10, 2012

9 thoughts on “Ryan McCombie’s Letter to the Board of Trustees

  1. Agreed. A sensible approach, though I fear the Sunday evening meeting will be just formality. There seems to be a strong desire to “move on”. This is good for the football team, as they have a job to do, and must focus on that task. However, the BOT needs to be certain that they don’t confuse “moving on” with “turning away.” They have a responsibility to alums as well as present and future students and staff. Heads in the sand and mute acquiescence to the crimes perpetrated against Penn State by the NCAA will not help heal anything.


  2. Lately I’ve read a lot of online posts urging the PSU community to “move on” from the terrible ordeal they have endured these past few months. But I question why the University cannot “move on” and still stand up for itself.

    I couldn’t agree more that at some point, “moving on” is essential. At this moment, it is essential for the football team in particular. I can’t imagine how these courageous young men have coped with the onslaught if vile invective and horrible accusations that have been launched at the place they have chosen to make their home. However, I think a distinction should be made between “moving on” and “turning away”. The general theme seems to be that Penn State should just forget about having been grievously wronged by the NCAA, and simply take their beating and slink off to lick their wounds. As if, somehow, sticking up for the University is the same as ignoring or belittling the Sandusky victims. This is a ridiculous notion.

    Now before anyone starts lighting torches and fashioning nooses, let me make it perfectly clear that along with everyone else, I abhor the crimes that were committed against the innocent victims in this case. But make no mistake – that includes the thousands of innocent victims created by the illegal NCAA sanctions that were crammed down the throat of the University under threat (followed by denial). These two sets of victims are not mutually exclusive – we can be sympathetic to both at the same time.
    And there isn’t enough space in this musing to begin addressing the victimization of Joe Paterno. True Penn Staters know that Joe would have never knowingly turned his back on young people in danger. His whole life was dedicated to young people. The accusation that he “enabled” Sandusky’s heinous activities is just plain ridiculous, not to mention the fact that it was based partly on the hysterical media’s agenda-driven interpretation of a grand jury report that misquoted the testimony of the primary witness, using inflammatory language that was not part of the court testimony. (http://www.walter-c-uhler.com/?p=40)

    The entire Penn State community knows that the NCAA has perpetrated a horrible injustice on them, hypocritically sweeping away its own protocols in the process of exacting punishment for unspecified rule violations. But there are so many who seem to be in such a hurry to bury this episode (“move on”) before the whole truth is known. So I am forced to wonder why there appears to be so much angst about finding this truth? After an ill-advised rush to judgment, why is there now a “rush to abandon” under the guise of “moving on”?

    I think about the many thousands of men and women who have fought and died over two hundred-plus years for, among other things, the principle of due process. I think, too, about the fact that so many people seem to now be willing to give up that fundamental right just so we all can “move on” (turn away?).

    What about the impugned dignity and sullied reputation of a great University and its people? Aren’t dignity and reputation worth fighting for? Or have we perhaps become so blasé about our basic American freedoms that we don’t even care about demanding that due process discovers the truth?

    I submit that people can “move on” without “turning away” or sticking their heads in the sand. But to do so requires courage and just a bit of “in your face” attitude. The NCAA has done no less than commit vindictive crimes against Penn State for issues outside their right to intervene. If the Penn State leadership doesn’t have the collective will to say “Hey, just a minute,” then maybe they deserve the black eye they’ve been getting.

    It is my firm belief that the Penn State community can “move on” while still fighting for what’s right – using due process, and pushing back at the NCAA to admit that their sanctions were unrelated to any violation of NCAA rules. Frankly, given the outrageous and flagrant violation of Penn State’s right to due process, I am surprised the U. S. Justice Department or the ACLU hasn’t shown an interest in taking up the cause of protecting the rights of its Penn State citizens.

    I am certain of one thing. If the Board of Trustees decides to ratify the NCAA punishment that was forced upon them, to the vast majority of those who are watching, it will be an admission of guilt. Unfortunately, it will have been based partly on hysteria, inaccurate media coverage, and fear. And the “I told you so’s” and smug self-righteous critics will have had their pound of flesh, and the University will be left with a very long and troublesome road to recovery.

    If that’s “moving on”, I’m staying here.


  3. Captain…thank you for your leadership! The BOT has shown its first bit of sense in this matter because of you. You are clearly ready to lead, I’m ready to follow, We’ll never quit. BZ


  4. I have a few questions that you might have answers to:
    1. I have read the BOT standing orders. Order 10 seems to me to give the President authority to sign contracts, etc. pursuant to the day-to-day operation of the University. It does not override Order 4 does it?
    2. Who is paying the lawyer who says Erickson had the authority to sign?
    3. Does Erickson play poker? If he does, I would like to sit in on that game. I would own Old Main in a few hands.


  5. Mr. McCombie, My wife and I are glad to have voted for you to join the board. At the time, we had no idea how articulate you are, but we are delighted to discover how well you represent our point of view. We imagine your experience as a SEAL will serve you well now, because this mission will require dedication, perseverance, focus, endurance, wit, strength and character to complete. Bless you.


  6. Ryan, well stated as expected. Great to have a true warrior in the inner circle of that band of spineless folks who at face value just don’t get it. I know you will bring common sense back to prominance and do what is right, not just expedient. Welcome back and thanks for your service. Hope to see you again soon


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