Mitchell suggests further easing of Penn St. sanctions is possible

A Penn State University logo on the side of a merchandise trailer. (AP photo)

Former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, the athletics integrity monitor for Penn State, has suggested that further relief from NCAA sanctions for the football program could be possible next year when he makes his annual report, and that the lifting of the bowl ban could be on the table.

In an address Friday to the Penn State Board of Trustees in State College, Mitchell said university president Rodney Erickson and his administration “has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to fulfilling the requirements of the Athletics Integrity Agreement,” which was created as a condition of the sanctions brought about by the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

He said his report for 2014 could provide for a lessening of other sanctions.

“I have suggested,” he said, “that the NCAA consider a multi-staged approach that would first provide relief in the near-term by modifying the reductions in scholarships and then holding out the prospect of further mitigation in the future if Penn State continues to engage in the same qualify of effort that it has demonstrated over the past year.”

He said he will “consider whether it’s appropriate and justified to recommend further relief.”

Mitchell stopped short of specifying which sanctions would be eased. He did acknowledge that eliminating the bowl ban could be considered.

The sanctions handed down in July 2012 provided that Penn State would be ineligible for all post-season play from 2012 through 2015. Mitchell’s next report is due in September 2014, when the season already will be underway.

In response to Mitchell’s 2013 annual report, the NCAA decided to modify the scholarship restrictions it imposed as part of the sanctions. It changed the maximum amount of scholarships Penn State may give to freshmen in the Class of 2014 from 15 to 20, and to the FBS limit of 25 in 2015 and beyond.

Overall, the number of overall scholarships was increased from 65 to 75 in 2014, 80 in 2015 and to the FBS maximum of 85 in 2016.

--Joe Juliano

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