Penn State football to get scholarships back early from NCAA
The NCAA has announced that it will restore some of the scholarships that were taken away from Penn State's football program in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
Starting with the 2014-15 academic year, five additional initial scholarships will be restored to the university's football team. For the 2015-16 academic year, the program will have 25 scholarships, and for the 2016-17 academic year the program will have the standard 85 scholarships.
A report commissioned by Penn State heavily criticized university leaders' response to complaints about Sandusky. The school and the NCAA agreed to the penalties in a consent degree signed more than a year ago, shortly after Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse.
Those penalties also require the school to pay a $60 million fine and serve a five-year ban on postseason play, and the NCAA eliminated 112 wins by the football program under Joe Paterno.
All of those other punishments will remain in effect. But the NCAA said it may consider further reductions in sanctions if the school continues to cooperate with the plan put in place in the wake of the scandal.
NCAA president Mark Emmert said that the decision to restore some scholarships earlier than originally planned "is an important recognition of Penn State's progress."
Penn State president Rodney Erickson called the news particularly welcome to student athletes who want to attend Penn State "and will now have the means to do so."
The lessening of punishment against the Nittany Lions was formally endorsed by the NCAA's Div. I Board of Directors after former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, the independent Athletics Integrity Monitor for Penn State, made a recommendation.
"While there is more work to be done, Penn State has clearly demonstrated its commitment to restoring integrity in its athletics program," Mitchell said in a press release issued by the NCAA. "The university has substantially completed the initial implementation of all the Freeh Report recommendations and its obligations to the Athletics Integrity Agreement, so relief from the scholarship reductions is warranted and deserved."
Mitchell noted that the scholarship restoration program will create "an incentive for the university to continue its progress under new leadership" when Erickson steps down in June of next year.
Earlier this month, Mitchell issued a report on the first year of his service as monitor, crediting Penn State for notable progress that included implementation of 119 recommendations made last summer by former FBI director Louis Freeh, who directed the school's investigation into the scandal.
Sandusky is serving a 30- to 60-year state prison sentence for sexual abuse of 10 boys, including incidents inside Penn State athletics facilities. A state appeals court recently heard oral argument in his quest for a new trial.
This article contains information from the Associated Press.