The NCAA isn’t waiting long to announce its punishment for Penn State.
The organization issued a news release shortly after the Joe Paterno statue was removed Sunday that it will be holding a 9 a.m. news conference today to announce “corrective and punitive measures” for Penn State. The news conference will be held at the NCAA’s offices in Indianapolis.
NCAA President Mark Emmert and Executive Committee chairman and Oregon State President Ed Ray are participating in the announcement.
A NCAA spokeswoman declined to provide further details about the announcement. Penn State spokesman David LaTorre also declined to comment.
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Emmert said in a PBS interview last week that the organization is examining all of its options in response to Penn State’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
The timing of the announcement is a sign that Emmert has received a written response from Penn State President Rodney Erickson to a letter sent Nov. 17. The letter outlines four questions regarding compliance, ethics and procedure the university must answer regarding its handling of the scandal.
The NCAA’s ruling will come less than two weeks after the release of the Freeh report. The investigation and resultant 267-page report conducted and compiled by former FBI director Louis Freeh details the role four major university figures — Paterno, athletic director Tim Curley, former president Graham Spanier and former vice president for finance Gary Schultz — played in covering up the scandal involving Sandusky.
Sandusky was convicted last month on 45 of 48 counts of abusing boys and is in jail awaiting his sentencing. Curley and Schultz are facing charges of failure to report abuse and perjury connected with a grand jury probe of a 2001 incident. A pretrial hearing for Curley and Schultz is scheduled for Aug. 16. Paterno died of lung cancer on Jan. 22, exactly six months before his statue outside Beaver Stadium was removed.
One of Emmert’s options includes the NCAA death penalty for the football program. The NCAA has issued the death penalty to just one football program in its 106-year history. Southern Methodist University was forced to miss the 1987 season because of improper benefits to players.
“The fact is this is completely different than an impermissible benefits scandal like what happened at SMU or anything else that we’ve dealt with,” Emmert said on PBS’ “Tavis Smiley” show last week. “This is as systemic a cultural problem as it is a football problem.
“There have been people that have said, ‘Well, this isn’t a football scandal.’ Well, it was more than a football scandal. Much more than a football scandal. We’ll have to figure out exactly what the right penalties are. I don’t know that past precedent makes particularly good sense in this case because it’s really an unprecedented problem.”
Paterno was honored with the NCAA President’s Gerald R. Ford Award in 2011. Emmert was the NCAA president when the organization honored Paterno with the prestigious award.
Spanier is a former chairman of the NCAA Division I board of directors and Bowl Championship Series presidential oversight committee.
Talk of possible NCAA sanctions started circulating outside Beaver Stadium shortly after the statue’s removal Sunday morning.
“I’m worried that they will give us the death penalty,” said State College resident, Penn State graduate and recent trustee candidate Vincent Tedesco. “I’m worried for State College because of the economic impact, I’m worried about the kids that go to school here and I’m worried about (coach Bill) O’Brien and the players.”
The NCAA’s swift action has surprised Pompano Beach, Fla., lawyer Michael Buckner, whose firm specializes in college sports law and NCAA infractions. Buckner said in a statement Sunday that any NCAA-imposed sanction against Penn State at this stage may potentially violate federal and state notions of due and fair process for five reasons:
• The school’s conduct is not a violation of an existing NCAA rule.
• The NCAA didn’t publish a process and procedure to address the issues relevant in Penn State’s case.
• The NCAA is not adhering to existing enforcement processes and procedures.
• The NCAA is treating Penn State differently than other schools that were involved in sexual assault scandals or other serious criminal misconduct.
• The NCAA failed to provide Penn State written notice of allegations, an opportunity to respond at a hearing before the NCAA infractions committee and an appeals process.
“As legal counsel for colleges and universities before NCAA committees, we are extremely concerned about the possible NCAA actions and urge the organization to comply with its existing processes and procedures to address the Penn State sexual abuse scandal,” Buckner said.
Guy Cipriano can be reached at 231-4643. Follow him on Twitter @cdtguy