While I welcome the decision by the NCAA to restore some of the scholarship to the football program, it's reasoning for doing so is nothing less than farcical.
As most Penn Staters - and college football fans in general - know, Penn State had a sterling reputation for its ability to perform at high levels on the field and in the classroom. All this done with not a single NCAA violation.
In the years prior to the Sandusky Scandal, Penn State's 89 percent graduation rate and 85 percent Graduation Success Rate were tops among all teams in the Associated Press' final 2009 Top 25 poll, according to NCAA data. The Nittany Lions' GSR and four-year federal graduation rate were second only to Northwestern among Big Ten Conference teams, according to the NCAA's 2010 graduation report.
For the late Coach Paterno's career, the Nittany Lions have counted 16 National Football Foundation Scholar-Athletes, 37 first-team Capital One/CoSIDA All-Americans® (47 overall) and 18 NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship winners.
And in 2010, NCAA President Mark Emmert, called Joe Paterno “the definitive role model of what it means to be a college coach.”
PSU needed the Athletic Integrity Agreement like a fish needed a bicycle.
However, less than one year later, Mark Emmert would levy unprecedented sanctions on PSU, based on some obscure rules buried in the NCAA By-Laws which were buttressed by slim evidence provided in the now discredited Freeh Report.
Today's decision to reduce the NCAA Sanctions is little more than a Hail Mary pass by Emmert and the BOT with the hopes of appeasing their opponents who they incorrectly accused of being part of a non-existent "football culture" at PSU.
The opposition is not going away. Not until all the wrongs are righted -- more on that later.
But what of this fallacious reasoning for the reduction of the NCAA Sanctions?
NCAA and Penn State's Revised Consent Decree
The revised Consent Decree, below, states that the NCAA has reduced the sanctions because of the compliance and efforts toward implementation of the....Athletics Integrity Agreement.
What is truly amazing about the "progress" that PSU made since last August is that it's ability to meet the Freeh Report recommendations for Athletics, on which the AIA is based, required them to do very little.
While the AIA is about a dozen pages long and filled with a lot of language, the bottom line is that addresses a dozen (12) recommendations in the Freeh Report that were mostly unnecessary and unsupported by evidence. And when you read how PSU addressed the recommendations on the PSU Progress Web-site, released in July 2013, you will see what an "outlaw" program PSU must have been to take such drastic changes (sarcasm).
A brief summary of the recommendations and commentary follows.
5.1 Recommendation: Intercollegiate Athletics Organization Structure: Revise structure to define lines of authority and responsibility. Action: Changes made to number of senior members responsible for football operations, compliance and human resources.
Comment: As usual, in the aftermath of a crisis or scandal, recommend redrawing the organization chart. Consulting 101.
5.2 Recommendation: Athletic Facilities Access: Evaluate security protocols for athletic, recreational, and camp facilities. Action: PSU originated Policy AD 72 regarding facilities access and improved video surveillance/card access procedures.
Comment: Sandusky committed no crimes on PSU's campus after 2001 and the majority of his crimes occurred off campus. No crimes were ever reported as occurring at a PSU sports camp. There was little need for this recommendation.
5.3 Recommendation: Intercollegiate Athletics National Searches: Conduct national searches for key positions including head coaches and Associate Athletic Directors and above. Action: PSU crafted policy HR-101 to require national searches and national searches are underway for the baseball, softball, and swimming/diving programs.
Comment: Recommendation should be implemented retro-actively back to 11-9-11 and a national search for a qualified Athletic Director should commence immediately. Oh, and we need to find a new fencing coach.
5.4 Recommendation: Academic Support for Athletes. Action: Already fully implemented in June 2012 (in other words, no action taken because none was needed).
Comment: Recommendation was unnecessary as evidenced by PSU's already outstanding academic record for its athletes.
5.5 Recommendation: Athletic Compliance: Hire additional compliance staff. Action: Two positions added and an upgrade of an existing positon.
Comment: Not needed.
5.5.1 Recommendation: Benchmark Athletics Compliance: Benchmark peer institutions. Action: PSU completed benchmarking with Big Ten schools and is considering hiring an additional compliance staff member.
Comment: PSU's only peer in the Big Ten is Northwestern. Most other conference schools have had NCAA violations, including Michigan (NCAA Final Four banners removed from Crisler Arena) and Ohio State (on probation, 2010 wins vacated). Prior to 2011, eight Big Ten schools had been hit with major violations since 2000. This recommendation was/is ludicrous.
5.5.2 Recommendation: Compliance Reporting Relationship. Establish and effective reporting relationship with the University Compliance Officer. Action: Associate AD for Compliance and Athletic Integrity Officer will report to the Director of University Ethics and Compliance.
Comment: Sounds good in theory, however, a legitimate conflict of interest policy is the key to an effective Ethics program. PSU doesn't have the former, thus it cannot accomplish the latter.
5.5.3 Recommendation: Intercollegiate Athletics Compliance Registration. Realign to ensure the AD staff members is overseen by the Athletics Compliance Officer. Action: Some new duties assigned to compliance staff.
Comment: Nothing to see here.
5.5.4 Recommendation: Compliance Education. Ensure personnel have knowledge of NCAA, Big Ten, and University rules. Action: Compliance staff conducted training and will emphasize following rules in employee performance evaluations.
Comment: Quite a novel recommendation. Employees should follow rules. Remember, PSU paid $8M dollars for this nonsense.
5.6: Recommendation: Compliance Training.
Ensure that Athletic Department employees
comply with University-wide training mandates.
Comment: The Freeh Report did not cite any specific instances in which athletic department employees alone were not complying with training mandates. Freeh's report cited University wide lack of compliance.
5.6.1: Recommendation: Track Compliance: Training
Provide and track initial and on-going training forathletic staff in matters of leadership, ethics, the
Penn State Principles and standards of conduct,
abuse awareness, and reporting misconduct
pursuant to the Clery Act and University policy.
Comment: Same as above. This recommendation/correction applies to PSU as a whole, based on the evidence presented in the Freeh Report.
5.6.2: Recommendation: Management Training
Include Athletic Department employees inmanagement training programs provided to other
Comment: There was no evidence in the Freeh Report that indicated Athletic Department employees weren't already participating in management training offered by the University.
ConclusionIt's evident that most of the recommendations regarding improvements to PSU's Academic Integrity were not needed and the only one that most people agree was needed is a national search for a new Athletic Director, which of course, PSU is not considering. Also, rumor has it that PSU is looking to extend Director of Athletic "Affairs," Dave Joyner's tenure by seven years. The bottom line is that PSU did next to nothing to "fix" the non-existent integrity issues in the athletic department and the BOT and Emmert are patting themselves on the back for this nonsense.
RecommendationsThis half measure by the NCAA (and the BOT) is, as BOT member Anthony Lubrano put it, a "baby step" in righting the wrongs that were an outgrowth of the BOT's mishandling of the Sandusky Scandal.
PSU alumni, students, fans, and supporters should not be satisfied until the NCAA:
1) Rescinds all of the sanctions (scholarships and wins fully restored).
2) Refunds the money PSU paid in fines.
3) Refunds the money wasted by PSU to hire and pay George Mitchell/DLA Piper.
In addition the remaining 11/9/11 PSU BOT members, including Erickson, must:
1) Issue apologies to the Paterno family, Graham Spanier, Tim Curley, and Gary Schultz.
The Pennsylvania Legislature must:
1) Reorganize the BOT and install interim trustees and a new President.
2) Continue to press reforms in Pennsylvania's Child Protection system.
We are not moving forward until the full truth is known, the NCAA sanctions are removed, PSU is properly governed, and Pennsylvania's children get the protection they deserve.