How involved was the NCAA in the investigation of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal?
New documents in the lawsuit filed against the organization by state Sen. Jake Corman suggest there was more involvement in the investigation, commissioned by Penn State, than previously known.
According to documents filed Tuesday, “the NCAA reached out to Omar McNeill of the Freeh Group to arrange a direct telephone call between President Mark Emmert and Judge (Louis) Freeh.”
That happened Nov. 30, 2011, one week after the university announced the hiring of the Freeh Group.
“It appears that by December 2011, the NCAA was looking into ‘collaborating with the Freeh Group’s investigation,’ as was outside counsel for the Big Ten,” wrote Corman attorney Matthew Haverstick, of Conrad O’Brien PC.
Attached exhibits in the filing show NCAA attorney Donald Remy soliciting input from Freeh investigator McNeill and discussing draft language for communications to former Penn State trustee and retired state Supreme Court Justice Cynthia Baldwin.
“We recognize the importance, confidentiality and independence of the work of Judge Freeh and his team and value the opportunity to gain appropriate insight into that process and its results,” McNeill’s proposed edits to the NCAA response on behalf of Emmert read. That email exchange was dated Dec. 20, 2011.
So why does this matter?
According to Corman’s camp, it pertains to the ongoing privilege arguments put forth by the NCAA.
“In light of the above, whatever point about privilege that Mr. Remy intended to make by advising the court that the NCAA only had ‘periodic status updates from Judge Freeh’s staff’ should bear no weight. The contacts were routine and substantive, and involved multiple third parties,” Haverstick wrote.
Penn State spokesman David La Torre put out a statement Wednesday morning.
“It has been public knowledge for almost three years that the university had agreed that the NCAA and the Big Ten Conference would monitor the progress of the Freeh investigation. While the NCAA may have made suggestions to the Freeh Group with respect to its investigation, the scope of the Freeh investigation was established by the Penn State (b)oard of (t)rustees, as set forth in the Freeh engagement letter, not by the NCAA,” he said in an email.
La Torre pointed to NCAA press releases and Associated Press coverage from 2011 showing that Penn State “understands the NCAA will continue to monitor these investigations.”
The NCAA released a statement Wednesday saying the documents revealed nothing “surprising.”
“At the time the Freeh investigation was commissioned by Penn State, the NCAA made clear it would cooperate in any way and monitor the progress,” the statement said. “As we have said, the NCAA received periodic status updates from Judge Freeh’s staff on the progress of the investigation,” the statement read. “The Freeh Group investigation was completely and entirely independent from the NCAA and these updates intentionally and purposely did not include any information regarding the substance of the investigation..”