July 27, 2012
Penn State Keeps Fighting Back: School’s Board of Trustees Reportedly Angry With President’s Acceptance of NCAA Sanctions Without Their Approval — Board Ultimately Calls Punishment “Unfortunate,” But Better Than the Expected “Death Penalty”
The Penn State Board of Trustees gathered Wednesday afternoon to discuss whether school president Rodney Erickson had the authority to agree to unprecedented NCAA sanctions against the football program without first getting the board's approval, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting.
The trustees and Erickson assembled in a meeting room on the first floor of a hotel in the city of State College, home to Penn State's main campus. Reporters were kept out. According to an anonymous source, the trustees were to confront Erickson over his acceptance of NCAA sanctions that will cost Penn State tens of millions of dollars and likely cripple its football team for years to come. Some trustees have expressed concern that Erickson violated a board rule that says the board must authorize the signing of contracts, legal documents, and other obligations." Penn State spokesman David La Torre said Wednesday that Erickson had authority to act without the approval of the full board. La Torre also said the potential for a multiyear death penalty" was floated during discussions between Erickson and NCAA officials before Penn State was hit this wewek with a $60 million fine, a four-year bowl game ban, reduced football scholarships and the forfeiture of 112 wins. Erickson has said he had no choice but to accept the NCAA sanctions because the governing body could have shut down the football program altogether. The potential for a four-year ban, first reported by ESPN, showed just how high the stakes were — and the school trustees, after meeting with Erickson, issued a statement calling the NCAA punishment unfortunate" but better than the alternative — the so-called death penalty."
NCAA president Mark Emmert said this week that if a total football ban had been imposed, other penalties would have accompanied it. If the death penalty were to be imposed, I'm quite sure that the executive committee and I … would not have agreed to just the death penalty. It would have included other penalties as well," Emmert said as the sanctions were unveiled, reports the news release by AP writer Mark Scolforo.
Many alumni and some trustees were incensed over the unprecedented NCAA penalty — which likely will cripple Penn State's football team for years to come — and Penn State's quick acceptance of it. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Wednesday that Gov. Tom Corbett said the penalties go well beyond" those responsible for the handling of the child sex abuse allegations, and he's concerned about the impact on current students who are bearing the brunt" of the sanctions, according to the release.