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Trustee Council Supports Lawsuit, Blasts NCAA Sanctions

The Washington-based American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), a self-described “independent, non-profit organization commited to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America’s colleges”, has released a statement supporting the recently filed Paterno family-commissioned lawsuit againt the NCAA and blasts the process by which Penn State came to sign the consent decree.

In a statement released by the organization, it said that one of the largest ongoing issues with America’s university educational system is the “NCAA’s deliberate marginalization of trustees in the oversight of collegiate athletics. Trustees are wrongly ceding their authority … NCAA practices must change.”

The Paterno lawsuit was filed in conjunction with former football players and football coaches as well current Penn State faculty members and trustees on Thursday after being announced the previous evening on Costas Tonight.

The lawsuit — filed against the NCAA, its president Mark Emmert, and former NCAA Executive Committee chair Ed Ray — looks to challenge the sanctions that were levied on Penn State’s football program. ACTA is speaking out in favor of the lawsuit because of the role, or lack thereof, of Penn State’s Board of Trustees in the decision-making process when university president Rodney Erickson signed the consent decree, a document that essentially agreed to the sanctions.

“Whether it’s agreeing to an NCAA sanction or switching a conference, governing boards must be actively involved in decisions of significant financial impact,” the statement reads.”Following NCAA and AGB guidelines, boards currently delegate substantial authority in athletic matters in ways that undermine their oversight responsibilities. At Penn State, the president unilaterally signed a $60 million dollar consent decree, waiving due process rights, and foregoing any open and thoughtful debate by the full board about the scope of the NCAA’s authority.”

The statement went on to draw comparisons to the University of Maryland’s recent agreement to switch conferences and join the Big Ten. Their president reached an agreement with the Big Ten Conference without consultation with the university’s Board of Trustees.

ACTA doesn’t blame their president, but instead the NCAA, as their policies “essentially require trustees to abdicate their responsibility as fiduciaries, and put students, the public and taxpayer dollars at risk by effectively forcing trustees to rubberstamp decisions by their presidents.”

“By any definition,” the statement concludes, “NCAA decisions of the kind seen at Penn State and Maryland meet a threshold of ‘materiality’ to the institution’s well-being — and the public trust — that mandate trustee oversight.”

About the Author

Zach Berger

Zach Berger is a reporter and Onward State's Managing Editor Emeritus. You can find him at the Phyrst more nights than not. If he had to pick a last meal, Zach would go for a medium-rare New York strip steak with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and a cold BrewDog Punk IPA. You can reach him via e-mail at [email protected] or on Twitter at @theZachBerger.


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