Mitchell Report Breakdown: Penn State Lauded For Commitment To Reform

As you’ve likely heard by now, Senator George Mitchell released his second annual report as the Athletic Integrity Monitor at Penn State on Monday. His report and its recommendations were again taken under advisement by the NCAA, leading to the reduction in sanctions that were announced yesterday. That included the lifting of the bowl ban and the reinstatement of all scholarships by 2015.

What you likely didn’t hear yesterday is exactly what Mitchell’s report, which was 56 pages in length, established over the past year of monitorship. Lucky for you, I took the time to read through the entirety of the report and break it down.

Here’s what Mitchell concluded over the last year:

The administration is working hard to continue the reform started last year.

“Through the second year of the Consent Decree, Penn State has not wavered in [its] commitment,” Mitchell said. “The initiatives undertaken in the first year have begun to take root as a result of Penn State’s continuing focus on these reforms.”

Mitchell went on to applaud President Eric Barron for his work to ensure that the university continues the reforms started by his predecessor.

Since his arrival on campus, President Barron has affirmed his commitment to the many reforms underway at Penn State that are managed on a daily basis by the administration response team,” Mitchell said.

He added that Barron’s Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Task Force are very positive initiatives as they look to ensure the university’s compliance with Title IX.

Mitchell also pointed out the consistency by the university in these areas over the past 12 months despite changes in senior leadership.

Compliance is being emphasized on a university-wide level.

One of the major recommendations in the Freeh Report was that Penn State work hard to ensure that the university’s athletic department is in full compliance with the NCAA’s rules and regulations. By Mitchell’s observations, the administration has gone above and beyond in this area, going as far as to call it the school’s biggest accomplishment over the the last year.

“Chief among the University’s accomplishments has been the institution of a wholly new and comprehensive compliance program that places oversight of athletics compliance outside of the Athletics Department and ensures direct access to the University’s senior leadership and Board of Trustees,” Mitchell said.

It seemed that Mitchell was most impressed by the university’s willingness to implement this type of reform in areas outside of athletics, establishing the Office of Ethics and Compliance. The report said that Penn State has made sure anybody related to compliance is independent from the athletics department while still keeping lines of communication fully open.

Mitchell noted that Regis Becker, the director of the new office, and his compliance staff have made presentations around the country due to national attention for the program’s ground-breaking initiatives.

The initiatives are working.

In the last year, Athletics Integrity Officer Julie Del Giorno has fielded 11 complaints, resolving four, with seven still being investigated.

The new Ethics and Compliance Hotline has received 168 calls in 2014, most relate to human resources-related issues. Again, all were dealt within a timely fashion. Facilities security enhancements are underway and will continue into 2015.

Penn State self-reported 23 NCAA violations over the 2013-2014 period, up from previous years. While this sounds negative, Mitchell opined that it “shows the growing strength of compliance efforts” at the university.

In the words of George Mitchell, Penn State “substantially met its obligations under the Athletics Integrity Agreement” over the last year.

Mitchell might end his monitorship sooner than expected.

The annual report concluded with the most important section of all: the recommendations. As you already know, he asked that the NCAA reverse the bowl ban immediately and reinstate scholarships by the 2015-2016 season. The NCAA did just that on Monday.

The third recommendation in the report, which was more of a note that there might be a recommendation in the future, was that Mitchell not monitor Penn State for the full five-year period designated if the current progress continues.

“The AIA set the term of the Monitorship at five years, but left open the opportunity to recommend that the term be shortened,” he said. “Should Penn State continue its current course of progress during this upcoming third year, I will in my next annual report consider recommending that the NCAA and Big Ten Conference conclude the Monitorship substantially earlier than scheduled.”

There was a whole lot in the report on background checks, education of specified university employees and all student-athletes on compliance, and some other news on the school’s reforms, but the above points are by far and away the most noteworthy takeaways from the second annual Mitchell Report.

In all, Mitchell was extremely positive throughout the report and lauded the administration and school as a whole for taking extra steps going beyond the Freeh Report’s recommendations, “leveraging this opportunity to effect comprehensive changes and improvements across the entire University.”

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About the Author

Zach Berger

Zach Berger is a StateCollege.com 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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