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NCAA Lifts Penn State Bowl Ban, Restores Scholarships Based on Mitchell Report Recommendations

by on September 08, 2014 2:57 PM

The NCAA has lifted the Penn State football program's ban on bowl games based on the recommendation of a former U.S. senator tasked with overseeing the university's compliance with  sanctions resulting from the Sandusky scandal.

In a second annual report released Monday afternoon former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell recommends the NCAA immediately lift the ban on bowl games for the Penn State football program allowing Penn State's players to play in the post-season this year.

Mitchell also recommends full restoration of scholarships for the football program. Specifically, he recommends the NCAA increase the total number of grants-in-aid to 85 for the 2015-16 season. That's the maximum number available under NCAA rules.

"My recommendations, both in 2013 and in this report, relate to elements of the sanctions that most directly affect Penn State's student-athletes, who bear no personal responsibility for the underlying reasons for the sanctions," Mitchell says in the report. "Many of these student-athletes chose to remain at Penn State in spite of the sanctions and the opportunity to transfer to another school without penalty. Many Penn State football players demonstrated loyalty by remaining at their University for two years without the prospect of playing in a post-season bowl game."

The NCAA announced Monday afternoon it has accepted Mitchell's recommendations.

"Penn State's commitment to the integrity of its athletics department and its progress toward meeting the requirements of the Consent Decree are clear," said Northern Arizona President Rita Hartung Cheng, who chaired Monday's Executive Committee meeting. "We thank Senator Mitchell for his meticulous and exhaustive work over the past two years. Mitchell's efforts and the dedication of Penn State officials made today's decisions possible."

Mitchell says because Penn State has been responsive and cooperative with sanctions and oversight, "I believe these student-athletes should have the opportunity to play in the post-season should they earn it on the field this year. The maximum number of student-athletes ought to be given the chance both to receive a quality education and be active in sports."

Mitchell is slated to monitor Penn State's progress for five years. However, if Penn State continues to meet is obligations, Mitchell says he will recommend in his third annual report that the NCAA and Big Ten Conference end mandated monitorship.

Mitchell says the university's administration, first under retired President Rodney Erickson, and now under President Eric Barron, along with the board of trustees implemented the requirements "in a meaningful and earnest way, in the face of vocal opposition. I conclude this second annual report with an exhortation to the university to maintain its momentum for positive change."

Mitchell notes the university still has work to do, including several projects that are only partially completed. Work remains to be completed, with many projects mid-stream.

"My team will continue to observe Penn State's activities to promote the advancement and completion of these constructive endeavors," says Mitchell.

Mitchel, chairman emeritus with business law firm DLA Piper, is the independent athletics integrity monitor under the Athletics Integrity Agreement between Penn State University, the NCAA, and the Big Ten Conference.

After Sandusky's indictment following allegations of child sexual abuse and after the revelation that some of the former Penn State football coach's crimes occurred on Penn State's campus, the university hired Louis Freeh, former FBI director, to investigate the scandal. The subsequent Freeh Report found significant wrongdoing on the part of the university.

In response, the NCAA leveled unprecedented sanctions against Penn State and its football program, including a reduction in football scholarships, a four-year ban on bowl appearances, and the vacating of 111 wins under former head coach Joe Paterno. The university must also pay a $60 million fine, which the NCAA says will be used for child abuse awareness and prevention.

Since then, Mitchell has been tasked with providing quarterly-reports regarding Penn State's compliance.

Some of the sanctions have already been reduced based on Mitchell's recommendations.

For example, the NCAA Executive Committee is gradually restoring football scholarships the university lost. Beginning this academic year, five additional scholarships were restored to the university's football program ahead of schedule.

Sandusky is serving 30 to 60 years in state prison. In 2012, a jury found him guilty on 45 counts of sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period. Three former Penn State administrators are awaiting trial for allegations they tried to cover up the scandal. All three men have pleaded not guilty.

Second Annual Mitchell Report



Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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