April 4, 2013 —- The recent doubletalk from Penn State leadership surrounding the school’s role in potentially authoring its own NCAA punishment is not only disconcerting, but downright negligent and contradictory to the University’s pledge of transparency, according to members of the grassroots watchdog group Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship.
Since July 2012, Penn State President Rodney Erickson has repeatedly stated that the University was threatened with the “death penalty” by the NCAA as a result of the conclusions set forth in the report authored by the law firm of Freeh, Sporkin & Sullivan. Released just eleven days before the NCAA formally announced its sanctions, the Freeh Report has since been criticized as inherently flawed and incomplete by PS4RS, former United States Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, and current Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, among others.
Oregon State University President Ed Ray, who was at the time chairman of the NCAA Executive Committee, was the first NCAA official to contradict Penn State President Rodney Erickson in July 2012 when he clarified that the “death penalty” was never on the table during the discussions that eventually led to the much publicized, unprecedented sanctions. Dr. Ray was explicit in saying, “I can tell you categorically, there was never a threat made to anyone about suspension of play if the consent decree was not agreed to.” He further stated that “the overwhelming vote – we took a vote – in both the executive committee and the Division I board was not to include a suspension of play or death penalty.”
Now, former NCAA investigator Ameen Najjar has released an email dated August 7, 2012 in which he wrote, “The Penn State deal is a travesty. The NCAA did not impose anything. Penn State agreed to and self-imposed the penalties, waved all due process and waived any right to appeal. The NCAA had/has NO authority to impose any penalties in that situation and PSU’s president sold the school down the river!”
Members of the 18,000 alumni watchdog group are today demanding answers from Penn State’s Board of Trustees.
“In the spirit of transparency, we demand that our Board of Trustees and President Erickson put all of their cards on the table,” said PS4RS spokesperson Maribeth Roman Schmidt. “On behalf of Penn State’s 600,000 alumni who’ve had our degrees devalued as a result of the sanctions; on behalf of hundreds of businesses associated with Penn State who’ve lost untold millions of dollars as a result of the sanctions; and on behalf of the current Penn State students and football family who’ve been unfairly saddled with sanctions, we ask for complete transparency regarding the NCAA sanctions, as the administration and Board of Trustees have repeatedly promised.”
In this regard, PS4RS is demanding that the following be disclosed immediately by the University: (1) all correspondence, documents, and communications of any nature related to the NCAA sanctions and consent decree from November 2011 to the present; (2) all correspondence, documents, and communications of any nature between the University, or anyone acting on behalf of the University, including but not limited to anyone affiliated with the law firms of Freeh,Sporkin & Sullivan, Pepper Hamilton, Reed Smith, or Lightfoot, Franklin& White, LLP, and the NCAA, or anyone acting on behalf of the NCAA, from November 2011 to the present, related in any way to the University, the NCAA sanctions, or the consent decree; (3) any and all University phone records detailing communications between the University and the NCAA from November 2011 to the present; and (4) a written list, including dates, times, names of participants, and subject matter, of all verbal communications between the University, or anyone acting on behalf of the University, and the NCAA, or anyone acting on behalf of the NCAA, from November 2011 to the present.
“If the deal indeed went down the way Rodney Erickson has explained, then thereshould be nothing to hide,” said Schmidt. “However, we now have two different representatives of the NCAA asserting there was no such coercion as Dr. Erickson has described.”
“Should we ultimately find that Penn State was complicit in the imposition of the sanctions, or that President Erickson misrepresented the events that led to the execution of the consent decree, then it is reasonable to conclude that theBoard of Trustees and administration have been dishonest with the Penn State community and have failed wholly and completely in their fiduciary responsibility to the University,” said Schmidt.
Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, with more than 18,000 members worldwide, was formed to effect positive change within the Penn State University Board of Trustees. Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship will endorse three candidates for the upcoming 2013 Board of Trustees election. For further information on PS4RS, please visit http://www.PS4RS.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to http://www.facebook.com/PS4RS. Follow PS4RS on Twitter at @PS4RS.