Penn State’s nine alumni-elected trustees are calling for a special board meeting to discuss settlement negotiations in a lawsuit over how $60 million in fine money imposed against the university can be spent.
The nine want the full board to meet Aug. 22 at the Nittany Lion Inn to discuss the university’s stance on those talks, the trustees wrote in a letter sent this week to board President Keith Masser.
“It is critical to address this issue immediately because our board is generally uninformed about these important negotiations and is certainly divided in its views about the NCAA consent decree and related sanctions,” the trustees wrote in the letter.
The request comes as NCAA and top Pennsylvania officials, whom the organization is suing, joined together this week in asking that the suit be put on hold while they try to hammer out a settlement.
Gov. Tom Corbett, Treasurer Rob McCord and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale are among those named as defendants in the lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of the Endowment Act — a Pennsylvania law to keep Penn State fine money from being spent outside the state.
State Sen. Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, has filed his own suit over the Endowment Act. He is asking a state court to rule the NCAA has to follow the law.
When reached by phone Friday, Corman said there were talks ongoing in his case as well as the federal one.
“Settlement discussions are ongoing with respect to a possible resolution of the Corman v. NCAA litigation,” Penn State spokesman David La Torre said in an email. “One of the matters being discussed is the appropriate time to convene a meeting of the board of trustees to discuss a proposed settlement.”
In their letter, the nine trustees noted the board hasn’t sanctioned — or even discussed — an official negotiating posture for Penn State.
“Therefore, we ask that neither the university nor board personnel conduct any further conversations with the NCAA until our direction has been discussed and determined by the full board, and the entire Penn State community knows what we are doing,” they wrote in the letter.
The nine alumni-elected trustees are Edward “Ted” Brown, Barbara Doran, Bob Jubelirer, Al Lord, Anthony Lubrano, Ryan McCombie, Bill Oldsey, Alice Pope and Adam Taliaferro.
Members of the group have swept recent board elections, running as reform-minded candidates and drawing on votes from an alumni base that remains upset at how the university handled the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky case.
The trustees, in their letter, compared the current situation to the university’s decision to enter a consent decree, the agreement between the NCAA and Penn State that levied historic sanctions against the university, including the $60 million and loss of scholarships and bowl eligibility.
“We have been told the board had no opportunity to dispute the consent decree in 2012,” they wrote. “Let us not make that mistake again.”
The trustees said in the letter that there already have been “ ‘settlement’ negotiations to resolve the validity of the consent decree as directed by the court.”
Commonwealth Court judges, issuing a ruling in Corman’s suit, previously called into question the legality of the consent decree.
A January trial date has been set in that case.
In the NCAA’s federal suit, a judge ordered aThursday meeting to sort out a timeline for the case, but the sides have asked to push that back 30 days while they try to work out a settlement.
The nine trustees, meanwhile, asked for a meeting of the full board Aug. 22, but said they would be willing to hold the meeting earlier.
“Keith, the NCAA no longer holds a ‘death penalty’ over our heads,” the trustees wrote in the letter. “We can negotiate from strength just as (late head coach) Joe Paterno recommended in his ‘Success with Honor’ approach to life. Rarely does history provide a ‘do over,’ but that is just the opportunity now in front of the trustees.”