In report to NCAA, Mitchell OK with Penn State transition

mcarroll@centredaily.comMay 30, 2014 

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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

Penn State’s recent presidential transition won’t affect the way the university cooperates with the former senator appointed by the NCAA to monitor the athletics department.

That’s what university officials told Sen. George Mitchell this month, he wrote in his seventh quarterly report on Penn State’s athletics integrity progress in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

Mitchell reported that he had met with President Eric Barron and his predecessor, Rodney Erickson, in May and that Barron promised continued support.

“Dr. Barron pledged that I would continue to receive complete cooperation from the university, as has been the case since the inception of my duties,” Mitchell wrote in the report.

Barron, who has been on the job for three weeks, said in a prepared statement that he is pleased with how quickly the university responded and how much it has accomplished in the way of compliance.

“Penn State has taken the recommendations seriously, has made enormous progress and has become a model institution for addressing issues like this,” he said. “We plan to remain on this track of continuous improvement.”

Barron, who has been visiting with newspaper editorial boards in recent weeks, told the Pittsburgh Tribune Review on Thursday that he thinks the university should be “rewarded” for the progress it has made.

The newspaper reported that Barron said he is hopeful Mitchell will recommend further easing of NCAA sanctions imposed against the university in the aftermath of the Sandusky child sexual abuse case.

Mitchell has been monitoring Penn State’s progress in adopting and carrying out a number of compliance, ethical and security measures for the athletic department. The measures were spelled out in the consent decree with the NCAA that authorized the sanctions against the university.

In his annual report last year, Mitchell praised Penn State’s progress and recommended the NCAA restore scholarships that were cut. Mitchell also suggested there would be room for additional sanction reductions if Penn State keeps up the good work.

Mitchell’s second annual report will be released at the end of the next quarter, which will more comprehensively review Penn State’s progress toward complying with the consent decree and completing long-term projects undertaken in response to the Freeh report, the university’s internal investigation into the Sandusky scandal.

In the latest quarterly report, Mitchell cited other steps Penn State has taken:

• The board of trustees adopted a compliance plan in May that addresses standards of conduct; governance; reporting lines and delegation of authority; training and education; monitoring and auditing; program promotion; discipline; and remediation.

• The Intercollegiate Athletics compliance department became the first in the country with five members certified by the National Association for Athletics Compliance.

• Penn State hosted its third annual conference on child protection and well-being and continued its support of organizations striving to end child sexual abuse and to assist its victims.

• The university continued installation of access controls and security measures at its athletics and recreational facilities to ensure adherence to Penn State policies, both at University Park and on its commonwealth campuses, with a goal of ensuring the access controls are fully operational for the start of the 2014-15 academic year; and

• Penn State commissioned a team of administrators and public safety professionals to support its Clery Act compliance program; and began to review policies, procedures and training programs concerning child safety and abuse prevention to ensure their consistency with newly enacted state laws.

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.

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