Monday, September 1

Erickson's 5- Point Promise Provided Template for Freeh Report, NCAA Consent Decree

Then (puppet) interim-President Rod Erickson's five point promise firmly set the narrative condemning the Penn State "culture," Spanier's leadership, and the PSU Athletic Department as a rogue element.

Ray Blehar

Erickson:  Five Point Promise was template
For Freeh Report & NCAA Consent Decree
I think I am correct to say that the one single thing about the Freeh Report and the NCAA Consent Decree that is most troubling to Penn State alumni, fans, and friends, was the indictment of our "culture" as putting football ahead of everything else.  

While the Freeh Report concluded that the "culture" permeated the University from the top (Spanier) to the bottom (the janitors), the fact of the matter is that Freeh was only repeating the indictment of the "culture" that was put forth by President Rod Erickson (very likely with guidance from the PSU BOT inner circle) on Nov. 11th,  2011.  

Erickson's first point of the five point promise is below:

1. I will reinforce to the entire Penn State community the moral imperative of doing the right thing - the first time, every time. 

-- We will revisit all standards, policies and programs to ensure they meet not only the law, but Penn State's standard. To oversee this effort, I will appoint an Ethics Officer that will report directly to me. 

-- I ask for the support of the entire Penn State community to work together to reorient our culture. Never again should anyone at Penn State feel scared to do the right thing. My door will always be open.

This point is disturbing on a number of levels, the first of which is that Erickson is basing the statement on the unproven allegations from the Sandusky grand jury presentment.  Next, he repeats the "moral" argument made by Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan.  Last but not least, Erickson indicts the culture based on the dubious, self-serving explanation provided by the janitors, that they feared they'd lose their jobs for reporting a retired football coach (Sandusky) in 2000.   

While there are many evidentiary issues with the janitor Ronald Petrosky's account of the crime, the fact that McQueary reported Sandusky just three months after that incident certainly rebuts the argument that "anyone at Penn State" felt "scared to do the right thing."  This fact also underscores the importance of the timeline of the Sandusky crimes and indicates the PA Office of Attorney General deceived the public by putting the crimes out of order in the Sandusky grand jury presentment.

This statement, as well, as many others by Erickson and the PSU BOT in the aftermath of the scandal, would have never seen the light of day if it had to pass review by a legal counsel that was putting the interests of the University first.  Unfortunately, neither Cynthia Baldwin (then) nor Steven Dunham (from July 2012 forward) have done their jobs in keeping PSU from making statements that assume guilt and liability for enabling Sandusky's crimes.

Spanier's Leadership & Athletics As A Rogue Element

In points two and three of Erickson's five point promise, he takes a shot at the leadership of PSU under Spanier and then singles out the Athletic Department as if it is not under any control of the University.  These also were prominent themes in the Freeh Report.

2. As I lead by example, I will expect no less of others. I will ensure proper governance and oversight exists across the entire University, including Intercollegiate Athletics.

3. Penn State is committed to transparency to the fullest extent possible given the ongoing investigations. I commit to providing meaningful and timely updates as frequently as needed. I encourage dialogue with students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other members of the Penn State Community.

The Freeh Report, based mostly on interviews of the Board, condemned Spanier's leadership style as not inclusive.  Some Board members complained that the meetings felt scripted and that they were rubber stamping pre-determined decisions.  The board also stated that Spanier didn't operate with transparency regarding the Sandusky investigation (the BOT would later be caught in lies about what they knew and when they knew it).   While Freeh put the onus on Spanier, former trustees have commented that the "inner circle" of the Board actually made most of the decisions and the other members typically went along.

Freeh:  No evidence to support PSU Athletics
was not complying with active PSU policies
As I pointed out in Report 2, Freeh's findings related to the football program not complying with University policies were not supported by any evidence in his report.  Chapters 8 and 9 of the Freeh Report discussed compliance with the federal and state laws (Ch. 8) and Child Protection in PSU Facilities (Ch. 9).  In both cases, the evidence substantiated weaknesses in University governance as the overriding issue.  

It was unfair of Freeh to condemn Paterno, McQueary, and Curley for not reporting the 2001 incident under the Clery Act, considering the police department, who administered the program, didn't have a mechanism in place for reporting until 2007. Moreover, compliance with policies related to child protection, such as conducting criminal background checks at sports camps, was under the purview of the Outreach and Cooperative Extension Office, not Athletics.  See pages 58-69 of Report 2 for a complete analysis of the findings.

NCAA Fines to Support Child Abuse Programs

Point 4 of Erickson's promise was:

4. We will be respectful and sensitive to the victims and their families. We will seek appropriate ways to foster healing and raise broader awareness of the issue of sexual abuse.

The NCAA sanctions included a $60 million dollar fine earmarked for child abuse prevention programs and/or the assistance of victims of child abuse.

Acceptance of Freeh Report A Foregone Conclusion

In point 5 of the "promise," Erickson pledged to take immediate actions on the findings.  This again is an inappropriate statement, given that any responsible board would first review the report and its findings to determine their validity before acting.  Crisis management expert, Steven Fink, makes that point very clear in his critique (Blunder #2) of the Board's actions.

5. My administration will provide whatever resources, access and information is needed to support the Special Committee's investigation. I pledge to take immediate action based on their findings.
On July 13, 2012, the triumvirate of Erickson, Karen Peetz, and Kenneth Frazier made a number of inappropriate statements at the PSU BOT's initial press conference regarding the Freeh Report.   
Frazier:  As SITF co-lead had a conflict
 of interest in praising the Freeh Report.
Frazier praised the report as "comprehensive and thorough report," even though the report itself stated it did not interview many of those directly involved in the 1998 and 2001 incidents. It seems obvious that Frazier, who headed the Special Investigations Task Force that was the client of Freeh, had a conflict of interest in his assessment of the Freeh Report.  After spending $6.5 million (at the time), who would want to publicly state the report was a piece of crap.  
In addition, Frazier acknowledged the BOT's failures in not providing oversight, however, it is quite notable that neither he nor the Board have faced any real consequences for their failures (unlike Paterno, Spanier, Curley, Schultz, and others).
Peetz: Added to narrative regarding
Spanier's control of University
Peetz's remarks were equally inappropriate when she, on behalf of the Board, "accepted full responsibility for the failures that occurred."  Peetz went on to state that the Board would be "closely studying the Freeh Report."  Apparently, whatever study was done by the Board has remained a "state secret" (see Promise #3 on transparency).  Finally, Peetz reinforced the Freeh Report's assertion of Spanier's lone control when she stated that the Board is now working more closely with the President and the University Administration.
Erickson: Didn't acknowledge PSU's reputation
for the academic success of its student athletes

Last but not least, Erickson's first remarks were he had to reassess the University's "leadership culture" and that he and his administration was working "more collaboratively than any other administration in recent history."  Given that Erickson was #2 in command at PSU, wasn't he part of that alleged lack of "collaboration" with the Board?  Erickson went on to state that academic excellence and academic achievement are wholly consistent and complimentary goals, however he gave no acknowledgement or credit that PSU had an outstanding reputation in that area.  To do so would have undermined Freeh's assertion that PSU had a "culture of reverence for the football that is ingrained at all levels of the campus community."  
This unsupported "culture" allegation made its way into the Freeh Report recommendations (5.4), the NCAA Consent Decree (Part III), and in  of the Athletics Integrity Agreement (Section III. A.) under the auspices that PSU needed to provide "academic support for its athletes."  However, the "culture" finding sealed PSU's "new" identity in the minds of the public as the worst of the worst football factories in college football.  Many in the media and the public called for the "death penalty" for Penn State based on this erroneous finding.


While Erickson stated he was put in a difficult position of either accepting the NCAA sanctions or face the "death penalty," the evidence above clearly shows that the Freeh Report's key themes came from Erickson's own five-point promise.  It is not a stretch to believe that Erickson  and others also had a hand in crafting the sanctions with the NCAA.
In addition, other evidence uncovered by my investigation and through the Right-to-Know procedures by Ryan Bagwell and Bill Cluck revealed that Freeh's investigation was anything but independent.  
Emails between the Freeh team and PA OAG investigators, emails showing constant communication between the SITF "core team" (i.e., Frazier and Tomalis) and Freeh, as well as the testimony of Kimberly Belcher, provided evidence of collaboration between the the OAG, the SITF, and Freeh.  It is already well established that Freeh was providing updates to the NCAA and Big Ten Conference.
While there has yet to be evidence found to date that confirms Freeh provided a draft report to the BOT for review, it appears that activity wasn't necessary.  Erickson and the SITF had already provided Freeh with the template for his report.

Give to the Penn State Sunshine Fund


  1. I have read everything I could on the handling of this story and I continue to go back to the one thing that irritates me the most. How can Trustees that represent PSU be intimidated by a group on the BOT that have their on agenda? It is very sad that it will take years to remove these anti Paterno, Football and Penn Staters from the B!

    While Freeh put the onus on Spanier, former trustees have commented that the "inner circle" of the Board actually made most of the decisions and the other members typically went along.

  2. While there are many evidentiary issues with the janitor Ronald Petrosky's account of the crime, the fact that McQueary reported Sandusky just three months after that incident certainly rebuts the argument that "anyone at Penn State" felt "scared to do the right thing."

    I think you mean three days?

    1. Janitor incident alleged to occur sometime in November 2000.

      McQueary witnessed incident in February 2001.

      A little over two months

  3. I agree that Erickson did a very poor job as PSU President by not defending PSU and prejudging other PSU administrators. It baffles me that Erickson was given a pass by the media for his granting Sandusky emeritus status in 1999 over his own reservations.

    I suspect that Erickson did not reveal all he knew about that. Emeritus status is a big deal to faculty so it would have been very unusual if granting Emeritus status to a mere Assistant Professor like Sandusky wouldn't have upset some of the faculty.

    It is also hard to believe that Erickson would not have called Sandusky's dept. chairman to discuss the recommendation for emeritus status. If he had done so, he should have discovered that Schultz forged the recommendation.

    1. The "Assistant Professor" title was added because just making him "Assistant Coach Emeritus" would have set a new precedence. Sandusky wasn't a professor of anything, nor was he part of the faculty. He was a coach.

  4. Erickson exchanged emails with Robert Secor in which he said "We can hope that not that many others take that careful notice."

    I have not seen or heard of a "forged recommendation," however it appears that the approval of Sandusky's retirement perquisites (Freeh Report Exhibit 3H) was a cut and past job of Schultz's signature.

    1. Page 60 of the Freeh Report stated "The fax included a draft memo from Schultz to Spanier that contained handwritten edits that changed the name of the memo's originator from Schultz to the Dean."

      I would categorize writing a recommendation letter and then signing another person's name to it as a forgery. If it wasn't a forgery it was deceptive, and misled Erickson. Maybe those handwritten edits were by Spanier rather than Schultz. The Freeh Report didn't provide a copy of that document.

      Erickson's letter to Secor mentioned that "I had wrongly assumed all along that the request came from Barbara." Although not mentioned by full name in the Freeh Report, a Dr. Barbara M. Shannon was the Dean of Sandusky's College of Health and Human Development in 1999.

      The whole emeritus episode is still very, very murky. Spanier never explained why he granted Sandusky emeritus status when it was unprecedented for someone of his low rank. I suspect that Sandusky got some bigwig(s) to request Spanier give Sandusky that honor. Sandusky had a lot of friends in high places at that time.

      I think Sandusky was an Assistant Professor prior to the emeritus application. Even some PSU head coaches sometimes taught PE courses during the off season so maybe Sandusky taught some PE courses as an Assistant Professor.

      Erickson's email to Secor said "I can't imagine many deans lobbying for assistant professors."

      Freeh did a very poor job explaining the emeritus incident and didn't include all his documents.

    2. Tim,
      Thank you very much for the citation.

      However, it is a leap to conclude Schultz editing a recommendation to come from the Dean is "forgery" or "deceptive." It is actually a very common practice for one official to write a justification letter on behalf on another official. This happens quite frequently where I work and I have done it on numerous occasions. It is likely that Schultz, who was involved in the retirement negotiations, wrote the nomination letter at the request of Spanier.

      You are correct that Freeh didn't include this FAX in the Freeh Report. Also, note that Freeh did not say who made the edits. It could have been either Spanier or Schultz.

      In this blogpost ( I concluded that the whole emeritus status thing was overblown because Freeh and the AG were desperate to get something (anything) on Spanier. They made a big deal of it by implying that it enabled Sandusky's abuse on PSU property, (which stopped in 2001). The blog also notes other PSU administrators stating that exceptions to the rules on granting emeritus status was quite common.

      While I don't recall the source, Spanier stated that because the PSU football staff was underpaid by comparison to other major college football staffs, it was his belief that they should be richly rewarded at retirement.

      You are also correct that Freeh did a very poor job explaining the emeritus decision making process. This is more commonly known as intentional bias -- and that is consistent throughout his report.

  5. Thanks Ray.

    It doesn't seem true anymore but PSU coaches and even some assistant coaches, like Sandusky, were once faculty members. That's why Erickson expected a recommendation letter from a Dean on Sandusky's request for emeritus status.

    One PE faculty member remembered that all the head coaches, except Paterno and the head basketball coach, would teach occasional PE courses.

    I know the PSU head gymnastics coach, Gene Wettstone, who won 9 men's NCAA team championships, once taught PE classes in badminton for undergraduates. At one time PSU required several PE classes for all undergraduates.

    The normal ways emeritus decisions are made is for the dept. faculty to vote and then the dept. chair would send his and the faculty's recommendations to the dean, the dean would then send his recommendation to the provost, and the provost would send his recommendation to the President.

    One wonders if Sandusky asked his dept. chairman and was rebuffed so he did an end around by asking Curley for it as part of his retirement deal. Or maybe Sandusky got some of his Second Mile big wigs to approach Spanier directly, and Spanier got his right hand man Schultz to deal with it.

    The details would likely be interesting but are not of critical importance to the Sandusky scandal.

    I think the real importance is that Spanier, Curley and Schultz never would have gone to the trouble to get emeritus status for Sandusky in 1999 if they believed Sandusky sexually abused boys. Freeh and the NCAA just ignored that basic fact when they extended their imagined coverup back to 1998.

    1. Tim,
      Spot on here...

      I think the real importance is that Spanier, Curley and Schultz never would have gone to the trouble to get emeritus status for Sandusky in 1999 if they believed Sandusky sexually abused boys. Freeh and the NCAA just ignored that basic fact when they extended their imagined coverup back to 1998.

      I'll try to find the Spanier citation.