Five Pennsylvania congressmen want the NCAA to restore scholarships stripped from Penn State and to rescind a $60 million fine levied in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Howard Township, was among a group of House members who signed a letter sent last week to NCAA President Mark Emmert, saying the sanctions harm innocent Penn State students and erode the NCAA’s credibility.
“The impact of these sanctions directly contradicts your organization’s supposed goal of promoting education for student athletes,” the congressmen wrote.
Thompson and the others referenced an April ruling by the state Commonwealth Court that calls into question the validity of the consent decree, the agreement between Penn State and the NCAA that led to the sanctions.
“Swiftly rescinding the sanctions is the proper course of action at this time,” they wrote.
Penn State was hit with historic sanctions, including a $60 million fine, loss of scholarships and wins, and a four-year bowl ban, after an internal investigation found top university officials covered up child sexual abuse allegations against Sandusky, a former assistant football coach.
Sandusky was convicted in 2012 of sexually abusing 10 young boys and was sentenced to serve 30 to 60 years in state prison.
Joining Thompson in signing the letter were Republicans Charlie Dent, Jim Gerlach and Mike Kelly, and Democrat Mike Doyle.
An NCAA spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
The consent decree is under pressure elsewhere, including in lawsuits like the one family and supporters of late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno have filed in state court to have the sanctions overturned.
Legislators in Pennsylvania last year passed the Endowment Act, a law to keep the $60 million in fine money from leaving the state; and state Sen. Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, is suing to ensure the NCAA follows the law.
The NCAA last year lessened the sanctions against Penn State, restoring some scholarships, because the organization said it recognized the university was making significant progress implementing changes that were part of the agreement.
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said Monday from the conference’s media days in Chicago that he hopes the NCAA looks favorably on any request to further lessen sanctions that might come from Penn State athletics integrity monitor George Mitchell.
“The leadership (at Penn State) really met the challenge as far as we’re concerned,” Delany said.
When asked for comment, Penn State football coach James Franklin said he is focused on preparing for the season.
“My focus is on what to call on third down against Central Florida,” Franklin said.
Thompson has been critical of the sanctions in the past. He’s written letters to the NCAA calling for restored scholarships and seeking to have fine money stay in the state.
In the newest letter, the congressmen said they want answers from the NCAA on two questions:
• The students currently affected by the sanctions were high school students at the time of the consent decree’s enforcement and enrolled at Penn State to seek a quality education. How do you reconcile enforcing these sanctions with the NCAA’s mission statement?
• Your organization admitted in the consent decree that it lacked authority to fine Penn State for the criminal activity of a former university employee. How can you continue to insist upon enforcing punitive measures against Penn State?