Mitchell: Further relief from NCAA sanctions could come next year

mdawson@centredaily.comNovember 22, 2013 

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NCAA monitor George Mitchell speaks at a January Penn State board of trustees meeting. Mitchell pointed to Penn State’s implementation of most of the 119 recommendations laid out in former FBI director Louis Freeh’s report last summer in his positive report on the university’s progress after the NCAA sanctions.

NABIL K. MARK — CDT file photo Buy Photo

— The Penn State community will have to wait until next year to find out if the Nittany Lions can go bowling.

George Mitchell, the former U.S. senator who is watching over Penn State’s athletic compliance efforts for the NCAA, predicted Friday that the university will continue to earn high praise from him, but he stopped short of saying what, if any, sanction reductions could be on the horizon.

“At the time of my annual report next year, I will consider whether it’s appropriate and justified to recommend further relief,” Mitchell said during an update to the university’s board of trustees.

He wouldn’t speculate what would be the most likely reduction, whether it’s a lifting of the bowl ban, as many fans hope, or an easing of another sanction.

In Mitchell’s update, he reiterated the praise that he issued in a report released in the summer, saying the university was fully cooperative and gave him and his team unfettered access to be able to do their job.

Mitchell was behind the NCAA’s decision to restore the scholarships the organization cut as part of its harsh sanctions for the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Mitchell has monitored Penn State’s efforts over the past year to bring its compliance in line with requirements spelled out in an athletics integrity agreement, and he has always given Penn State high marks.

Mitchell said he recommended a multistep sanction reduction if Penn State shows progress. The scholarship restoration was the first of those steps.

Mitchell said the next step won’t be clear until after his second report is made next year.

Trustee Mark Dambly asked about hearing about a recommendation before that report, but Mitchell said that would not be possible.

Mitchell also praised President Rodney Erickson for the university’s work.

“You did it. I merely reported it,” he said he told Erickson earlier Friday.

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