UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State and area officials say they are gratified by the NCAA decision to reduce the sanctions against the university’s football team.
“The action taken today by the NCAA, following its review of the positive report issued this month by Sen. George Mitchell, recognizes the significant efforts over the past year to make Penn State a safer, stronger institution,” Penn State President Rodney Erickson said in a news release.
The NCAA released the decision Tuesday morning, announcing it would gradually restore Penn State’s football scholarships in light of a positive report from Mitchell, the appointed athletics integrity monitor.
The decision restores the team’s scholarships to 75 in 2014-15, 80 in 2015-16 and the full 85 by 2016-17. The NCAA also might consider modifying the postseason ban, according to the NCAA statement.
Erickson also expressed gratitude to head football coach Bill O’Brien for his actions during the “critical time” for the university. He also acknowledged the work of the student-athletes over the past two seasons.
“The resiliency displayed by those young men, as well as our entire student body is something of which we are proud,” he said, also thanking the administrators, faculty, staff and students.
“Penn State officials are gratified by the decision of the NCAA Executive Committee to modify the scholarship limitations previously imposed on the (u)niversity under the consent decree between the (u)niversity and the NCAA,” said Athletics Director Dave Joyner in a news release Tuesday.
“This action, announced today, taken in recognition of Penn State’s significant progress under and continued compliance with the (a)thletics (i)ntegrity (a)greement, grants immediate relief from both the initial scholarship restrictions and overall team limit restrictions previously imposed on the university’s football program. This modification will restore a total of 65 scholarship opportunities for football student athletes wanting to attend Penn State.”
Keith Masser, chairman of the Penn State board of trustees, also released a statement Tuesday morning. It said:
“The impact of the NCAA’s action on our current and future student-athletes cannot be overstated. This will provide many additional opportunities for students who dream about getting an education at Penn State and competing at the highest level of intercollegiate athletics.
“I want to commend President Rodney Erickson and the entire university community who worked tirelessly to institute the reforms that laid the foundation for today’s action.”
State Rep. Scott Conklin announced his pleasure in the NCAA decision.
“This is great news,” Conklin, D-Rush Township, said in a statement. “I am pleased for the student-athletes who were unjustly punished for deeds not their own. I will continue to be a strong advocate for our Penn State reform package. I will also continue to encourage the university to implement transparency polices that will benefit Penn State’s future for years to come.”
U.S. Reps Glenn Thompson and Charlie Dent, who previously sent letters to NCAA officials asking for the scholarships to be restored still say they never should have been taken away in the first place.
The Reps. call for greater accountability within the organization.
“Despite the NCAA’s decision to gradually restore these scholarships, the initial decision to take punitive action against innocent students remains completely unjustified and only serves to harm past, present and future academic achievers,” Thompson, R-Howard, said. “The resiliency of the students, alumni and community during this very challenging time has been inspirational.”
Matt Morgan can be reached at 235-3928. Follow him on Twitter @MetroMattMorgan.