Erickson May Have Broken Standing Order

The debate on whether or not the sanctions handed down to Penn State by the NCAA are warranted has been ongoing with Penn Staters and college football fans alike over the last several days. But one area that hasn’t been broadly discussed is whether President Rodney Erickson — without approval and vote from the Board of Trustees — had the authority to sign the agreement with the NCAA essentially accepting the sanctions without even a whimper of a fight.

Standing order IV of the Penn State Board of Trustees deals with “Matters Requiring the Approval of the Board of Trustees.”

According to provision 2-e of Standing Order IV, the following actions must be approved by the Board: Authorization to borrow money; authorization of persons to sign checks, contracts, legal documents, and other obligations, and to endorse, sell or assign securities.

Penn State President Rodney Erickson’s signature appears on the document that accepts the NCAA sanctions. Certainly, that agreement would be considered a legal document — and one that directly costs Penn State $72 million, with some experts saying it could amount to up to a half billion dollars in losses.

No hearings. No approval from the governing body of Penn State. No alumni input. All President Erickson did was accept the NCAA quasi-dictatorship’s ruling without a fight, and move on.

Newly-elected Board of Trustees member Anthony Lubrano has been outspoken in his opposition to Erickson’s decision, and says the Board of Trustees did not have a part in the decision making process. “I am very disappointed … because I am going to be held accountable that I wasn’t part of the process that led to the agreement,” Lubrano told the Patriot News.

Lubrano also interviewed with ESPN radio. “As a board member, I was very disappointed that I wasn’t consulted, nor were most of the board members, before our school entered into this consent agreement,” he said. “I’m troubled that we did this before most of us had any knowledge of what we agreeing to. I’m deeply disturbed by the sanctions. I hold that the NCAA doesn’t have the authority to do this.”

Adam Taliaffero, former Penn State football player and Board of Trustees member, also took issue with the NCAA violations. Shortly after the announcement was made Monday morning, he Tweeted, “To answer if I’m ok with everything…No! Gathering my thoughts …Will check back in this afternoon..did that promote healing?”

If Lubrano and Taliaferro’s statements are correct, it’s clear that Erickson did not fulfill his obligations under Standing Order IV to receive approval from the Board of Trustees to enter into the NCAA consent agreement.

In an interview with the Centre Daily Times, President Erickson said that he signed the agreement out of fear that the NCAA would issue the “death penalty” to Penn State if he didn’t consent. “We had our backs to the wall on this. We did what we thought was necessary to save the program….This is the decision you make: Accept the consent decree or the (NCAA) board will go in another direction,” Erickson told the CDT. “So we accepted that, and I signed it on behalf of the university (Sunday) night.”

However, NCAA Executive Committee Chirman Ed Ray denied Erickson’s claims, saying “I can tell you categorically, there was never a threat made to anyone about suspension of play if the consent decree was not agreed to…That was never even a point of discussion within either the Executive Committee or the Division I board.”

Someone isn’t being honest.

According to the CDT, Erickson conferred with his “closest advisers and members of the board of trustees” to reach the decision, including Chairwoman Karen Peetz and acting Athletic Director David Joyner. When asked which other university personnel Erickson consulted, Penn State spokesman David La Torre wouldn’t comment.

It appears that President Erickson entered into a legal agreement with the NCAA unilaterally — essentially writing a $72 million check without the entire Board of Trustees approval — which would seem to be a direct violation of Standing Order IV.

So what can we do now? I’m not sure, but there’s no doubt Lubrano and Taliaffero aren’t the only board members pissed about this egregious violation of policy by our University president. I think it’s about time our administrators start sticking up for the Penn State community instead of succumbing to public pressure as Erickson did the second he dotted the “i” in his name Sunday night.

President Erickson said in his statement Monday morning, “Today we accept the terms of the consent decree imposed by the NCAA.”

Well, President Erickson, I’m not sure who “we” is. But I can tell you that it is not me, my fellow students, the State College community, our student athletes, our alumni base, or our Board of Trustees.

So who, then, are you working for, sir?

Update: 2:22 p.m.- The Express-Times is reporting that the Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet this afternoon to discuss Penn State president Rodney Erickson accepting the NCAA sanctions without first informing board members of his plan. A few trustees including Anthony Lubrano and Adam Taliaferro have been critical of Erickson’s handling of the process and perceived lack of transparency.

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About the Author

Kevin Horne

Kevin Horne was the editor of Onward State from 2012-2014 and currently holds the position of Managing Editor Emeritus, which is a fake title he made up. He graduated from Penn State with degrees journalism and political science in 2014 and is currently seeking his J.D. at the Penn State Dickinson School of Law. A third generation Penn Stater from Williamsport, Pa., Kevin is also the president of the graduate student government. Email: [email protected]

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