Trustee Joel Myers Rips the NCAA and Freeh Report
Penn State Trustee Joel Myers has not been silent about his disdain for the NCAA and how it interpreted the Freeh report. Last August, Myers was one of the first trustees to speak up at a board meeting to that effect. He has since been joined by trustees Ryan McCombie, Adam Taliaferro, Alvin Clemens, and Anthony Lubrano in outspoken criticism of the Freeh report in recent months.
Yesterday, Myers sent an email to a large group of Penn State alumni, ripping the NCAA and the Freeh report. The full email can be found below.
This is in response to the many emails I have received over the last couple of months. I am taking the liberty of also sending it to those who have corresponded with me previously.
Under the guise of helping children, Jerry Sandusky victimized them. Those victims continue to suffer to this day. Some were victimized on our campus, and we grieve and take as much responsibility for that as is humanly possible.
By shining the light on what happened and becoming a leader against child sexual abuse, Penn State is working to save tens of thousands of potential future victims nationwide from a similar fate, as well as help those who have suffered here. Education and awareness is the key to reducing sexual abuse, which is a plague upon this nation. Education is what we are all about. One in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused. Sexual abuse is not a rarity. It is all too common in this society. We are learning the extent it has happened not only at Penn State but at other colleges, universities and institutions of all kinds.
Jerry Sandusky is convicted as a sick and monstrous man and the courts will judge others alleged to have enabled him to continue, and that is fair and appropriate.
But two wrongs do not make a right. And as I have been saying from the hour that the NCAA sanctions were forced upon Rod Erickson, under threat, they were neither just nor appropriate. In its rush to judgment the NCAA took unprecedented actions against Penn State based solely on its incorrect interpretation of the Freeh Report and without any due diligence or due process and in clear violation of its own rules. By doing so, the NCAA wronged hundreds of thousands of innocents through the sanctions it imposed upon Penn State and did untold damage to our institution.
When the Board first found out about the Sandusky situation it took immediate action, and hired Freeh as Special Investigative Counsel (SIC) to provide an independent report so that we could take corrective actions in governance, structure and administrative procedures where necessary. Freeh had seemed credible based on the positions he held such as FBI Director.
A report can only be accepted or adopted by the Penn State Board of Trustees through a majority vote, which never occurred in the case of the Freeh Report. Contrary to the belief of many, it is important to make clear that the Freeh Report was never accepted nor was it adopted by the Board under the Charter of the University.
Freeh’s report and his speech in front of a nationwide audience at the time he released his report were presented like an indictment, drawing what Freeh characterized as “reasonable” conclusions. Unfortunately Freeh, under the light of the television camera, made harmful statements that went beyond what was in his actual, written report. And now, the recently released independent Thornburgh, Clemente and Berlin Reports each suggest there are flaws in both the facts and the conclusions of the Freeh Report.
As I have previously stated on many occasions, I strongly hold that the NCAA should never have implemented sanctions against Penn State based on the Freeh report for many reasons and the report was not commissioned for this purpose. The criticisms presented by respected reviewers about the facts and conclusions of the Freeh Report would seem to add additional credence to my previous concerns.
Freeh and certainly the NCAA misunderstood what was talked about as a “culture of reverence” around the football program. To most Penn Staters this does not mean that football was out of control, or as Ed Ray said a “football first” culture. I believe the term “reverence” meant there has been respect among the Penn State nation, including the faculty, staff, Administration, students, and alumni, because Penn State has always stood for the highest levels of integrity of academics, including real grades, real courses, real class attendance, real performance in the class room and very high graduation rates by our student athletes from a prestigious and demanding university. I experienced that personally as a faculty member over 17 years and other faculty members at Penn State will attest to a similar experience. That type of reverence should be supported by the NCAA and all who value the contributions to society of institutions of higher learning.
Regarding the Freeh report, although some of the facts and conclusions appear to have been wrong, that does not mean his recommendations are wrong. It is the Board’s duty to consider all serious recommendations to improve Penn State and to implement reforms and take any other appropriate actions that are in the best interest of the University – those recommendations provided by Freeh, as well as the suggestions from the Auditor General, Faculty Senate and any others whose suggestions that the Board believes will lead to better governance and administration I believe will be adopted.
George Mitchell (former Senate Majority Leader, one of the most highly respected people in the United States, who has served as a special envoy for Presidents of the United States for Northern Ireland and Middle East peace, and negotiated for Major League baseball, and who is universally respected for his credibility and judgment) was appointed the independent Athletics Integrity Monitor pursuant to Penn State’s Consent Decree with the NCAA. In his first quarterly report in November, he stated “Penn State’s Board of Trustees and its administration appear determined to implement, swiftly and in good faith, the recommendations for reform that were identified in the Freeh Report … dedicated substantial time and resources to accomplishing these objectives.”
Senator Mitchell also appeared personally before the Board in January and expanded on his report, took questions from Board members, including me, praised Penn State’s work in implementing recommendations, and sent a positive message of cooperation and progress – this from one of the most respected and esteemed individuals in the nation.
We can not change the past, but we can do all the right things going forward. Penn State has become a world leader in the fight to prevent child abuse, including establishing many new policies, procedures and positions, and training and educating more than 10,000 people in various aspects of child abuse. If there is any good from this tragedy, it is the spotlight that has been shined upon this epidemic of child abuse and the efforts to stop it.
What Penn State has accomplished in moving quickly to make positive changes goes far above and beyond what many could have imagined. This establishes Penn State as a clear leader in ethical and moral standards in intercollegiate athletics.
I call on the NCAA and the news media to recognize this – to acknowledge that whatever happened in the past we dealt with quickly and out in the open and that Penn State, as an institution, is moving vigorously to do the right thing.
In fact, by issuing the sanctions, the NCAA took the exact wrong action, not only violating their own rules and procedures, but additionally forcing Penn State’s President to violate the very principles of the Freeh report’s recommendations by accepting the sanctions without briefing, consultation or approval from the Board. Whether intentional or not, these actions and the ensuing damage to Penn State has cost the university hundreds of millions of dollars.
I again and vigorously call upon the NCAA to immediately remove the harmful and counterproductive sanctions. One, they were based on an inaccurate interpretation of the Freeh findings. Two, they were in clear violation of the NCAA’s own rules. Three, they have wronged thousands of innocents. Four, they have damaged the University. Five, they have sent the exact opposite and wrong message to people and institutions throughout the nation: that swift and decisive action to address and cure a bad situation is to be condemned, not rewarded.
The NCAA was wrong and it is time for them to admit it and do the right thing themselves.
Full disclosure: Joel Myers is the father of Dan Myers, the owner of Lazerpro Digital Media Group, the parent company of Onward State.