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Penn State Watchdog Group Calls for PSU-NCAA Documents

Much has been made about President Rodney Erickson’s decision to enter into the NCAA consent decree without a public fight. ESPN’s Don Van Natta outlines a weeklong cloak-and-dagger game in which the NCAA used the fear of the so-called “death penalty” to force Penn State to comply to a lesser penalty.

This is a story that President Erickson and the Board of Trustees have used to justify not fighting back harder, but their word is not — and should not be — enough for some. Ed Ray, the president of the NCAA’s executive committee, has maintained that Penn State was never threatened with the death penalty.

Naturally, such a large decision would come with a long paper trial. Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, an 18,000 member Penn State watchdog group, issued a release yesterday demanding Penn State’s records related to NCAA situation be made public to verify the death penalty company line.

“In the spirit of transparency, we demand that our Board of Trustees and President Erickson put all of their cards on the table,” said PS4RS spokesperson Maribeth Roman Schmidt. “On behalf of Penn State’s 600,000 alumni who’ve had our degrees devalued as a result of the sanctions; on behalf of hundreds of businesses associated with Penn State who’ve lost untold millions of dollars as a result of the sanctions; and on behalf of the current Penn State students and football family who’ve been unfairly saddled with sanctions, we ask for complete transparency regarding the NCAA sanctions, as the administration and Board of Trustees have repeatedly promised.”

PS4RS is requesting the following information:

  • All correspondence, documents, and communications of any nature related to the NCAA sanctions and consent decree from November 2011 to the present.
  • All correspondence, documents, and communications of any nature between the University, or anyone acting on behalf of the University, including but not limited to anyone affiliated with the law firms of Freeh,Sporkin & Sullivan, Pepper Hamilton, Reed Smith, or Lightfoot, Franklin & White, LLP, and the NCAA, or anyone acting on behalf of the NCAA, from November 2011 to the present, related in any way to the University, the NCAA sanctions, or the consent decree.
  • Any and all University phone records detailing communications between the University and the NCAA from November 2011 to the present.
  • Awritten list, including dates, times, names of participants, and subject matter, of all verbal communications between the University, or anyone acting on behalf of the University, and the NCAA, or anyone acting on behalf of the NCAA, from November 2011 to the present.

How much of that information Penn State can legally release is a legitimate question, but the university should want to cover its tracks and back up the death penalty story, right?

“If the deal indeed went down the way Rodney Erickson has explained, then thereshould be nothing to hide,” said Schmidt. “However, we now have two different representatives of the NCAA asserting there was no such coercion as Dr. Erickson has described.”

If Penn State was really facing a 4-year death penalty as Van Natta and Erickson claim, students and alumni would be more sympathetic to the decision to take the “lesser of two evils.” Personally, I’ve given Erickson the benefit of the doubt in this situation, but releasing records to back up the story could go a long way for the many skeptics.

“Should we ultimately find that Penn State was complicit in the imposition of the sanctions, or that President Erickson misrepresented the events that led to the execution of the consent decree, then it is reasonable to conclude that the Board of Trustees and administration have been dishonest with the Penn State community and have failed wholly and completely in their fiduciary responsibility to the University,” said Schmidt.

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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