In hindsight, Mark Emmert might wish he had some parts of the Penn State situation to do over again.
The NCAA president spoke to a group of Associated Press Sports Editors Sport Media Commissioners at a meeting in New York on Thursday.
Emmert has long maintained that the NCAA’s epic sanctions against Penn State in the aftermath of former Nittany Lions assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky’s 2012 conviction on 45 counts of child sex abuse charges were the right thing to do.
Even when settling the lawsuit brought by state Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, in January — negating entirely the consent decree that handcuffed scholarships, forbade postseason play, placed the football program on probation, and stripped 112 victories — the NCAA still maintained it was correct, saying “our legal case is strong,” and that the settlement was just about getting $60 million to flow into child abuse charities.
But according to USA Today Sports Media Group’s vice president of content, Gerry Ahern, there was some movement from Emmert in Thursday’s talk.
“Mark Emmert on what NCAA learned in wake of Penn State: Sanctions were right and appropriate. Would handle communications differently,” Ahern tweeted.
APSE tweeted “NCAA’s Mark Emmert summing up # PennState aftermath: “I could’ve handled things better.”
Kami Mattioli, college basketball editor for Sporting News, pointed toward the now-removed Joe Paterno statue as one of those communication problems.
“Mark Emmert: “I have people asking me when we’re going to let them put the (Joe Paterno) statue back up. We had nothing to do with that,” she tweeted.
The statement drew response from Penn State supporters.
“I have said from the very beginning of this sad ordeal that Mark Emmert is a sanctimonious hypocrite. His comment today only furthers my conviction,” alumni-elected trustee Anthony Lubrano said in an email, calling Emmert’s characterization “an understatement.”
“It’s time for Kirk Schulz, president of Kansas State and chair of the NCAA board of governors to realize that Mark Emmert must be replaced now,” he wrote.
“Instead of Mark Emmert’s weak, disingenuous back-pedaling, we’d like to see him firmly state that to date, Penn State has never had a single NCAA violation, that Joe Paterno handled the sexual assault inquiry in a manner that the NCAA now considers its standard, and that the Freeh report isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on,” wrote Maribeth Roman Schmidt, spokeswoman for Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship.