Penn State

Penn State to enforce athletic code of conduct

Penn State’s athletic department is now bound by a code of conduct that means athletes must stick to team rules, coaches cannot intimidate an athlete’s professor, and senior athletics management and staff must treat athletes like any other students.

And the university cannot retaliate against anyone who reports someone for breaking the code of conduct.

These policies and procedures have already been in place at Penn State, but the university pooled them together in adopting a new code of conduct that was required in the athletics integrity agreement with the NCAA and the Big Ten after university President Rodney Erickson accepted the NCAA sanctions this summer. The code also includes the NCAA’s and the Big Ten’s rules.

The code of conduct got the formal OK from the board of trustees Friday.

Student-athletes, coaches, administrators, athletics staff, and the 32 members of the board of trustees are those who will have to sign the six-page document. If someone does not sign it, the university will have to explain the person’s reasoning.

The code says people who report suspected violations can identify themselves but are allowed to make the report anonymously. The university and the athletics department have a non-retaliation and non-retribution policy, according to the conduct code.

Among other provisions in the code:

•  Students have to adhere to all policies established by the university’s student code of conduct as well as the coach’s rules.

•  Coaches are not allowed to pressure admissions staff to accept a student merely because of his or her athletic ability.

•  Board of trustees members must fulfill their fiduciary duty to oversee the athletic department’s policies and uphold its integrity.

•  Penn State’s president is ultimately in charge of athletics.

The code’s association with the NCAA sanctions has brought up questions as to whether adopting the code would signal the trustees’ accepting the sanctions. Trustee Anthony Lubrano has said it is important to make that clear.

That’s not the case at all, university counsel Stephen Dunham told the trustees Friday.

“It’s not a vote up or down on the consent decree,” he said.

Trustee Joel N. Myers wanted language to that effect in the official paperwork adopting the code, but Dunham recommended against that.

The NCAA sanctions were once again a topic of criticism from angry alumni during the public comment period.

One man told board Chairwoman Karen Peetz that he was ashamed of how the board fired former head football coach Joe Paterno.

Another man told her he is discouraging high school students from going to Penn State, something Peetz later said disappointed her.

A woman demanded to know why the university is not taking on a search to replace acting athletic director David Joyner, who was once a trustee and then appointed to the position after Tim Curley, the former athletic director, was indicted in the Jerry Sandusky scandal and put on administrative leave.

Peetz later told reporters Joyner’s contract expires June 30, 2014, the same as President Rodney Erickson’s contract.

Peetz did not say when the search for a new athletic director would begin. According to the recommendations from former FBI director Louis Freeh, the university is expected to conduct national searches for positions such as the athletic director.

Earlier this week, state Auditor General Jack Wagner called on state lawmakers to reform Penn State’s governance, and among his recommendations was that trustees should not be appointed to high-ranking university positions as Joyner was.