Penn State Football: Bill O'Brien Hoping NCAA Will Consider Reducing Sanctions
CHICAGO — More than a couple ears perked up Friday when Penn State coach Bill O’Brien said it’s his understanding the NCAA can opt to reduce the harsh penalties it imposed on the football program if the university is compliant with all the corrective actions the NCAA proposed.
“That can go either way,” O’Brien said. “If we’re not crossing our Ts and dotting our Is, that can go either way. But if we are, if we’re behaving and acting like the program that we’re gonna act like, then I’m under the understanding that they can come in and revisit that.”
Whether or not that’s true remains unclear, however. An NCAA spokeswoman, when asked to clarify if the NCAA can reduce the sanctions if Penn State is compliant moving forward, referred to president Mark Emmert’s statement earlier this week.
“Penn State has signed a consent decree to these fact findings and to these penalties, and they are established as fact,” Emmert said. “What we, of course, expect and what's intended by the corrective measures, in particular the athletic integrity agreement and the athletic integrity monitor, is to work with them to make sure that they implement the terms of that agreement.
“That agreement has not been struck. It will take a number of weeks for us to craft that agreement with them. But much like occurs with a corporate integrity agreement in a corporate world, we have full expectation that all of the terms of that agreement will be implemented. Should they not be, we reserve the right to reopen this case.”
What’s only spelled out above is the NCAA’s option to reopen the case if Penn State is not compliant. Likewise, what’s only spelled out on the NCAA website is the option of increasing the length and harshness of the sanctions, including a temporary shutdown of the program and additional fines, if compliance is lacking.
Penn State Acting Athletic Director Dave Joyner didn't sound as optimistic as the coach.
“Certainly the NCAA has the right to reopen the consent," Joyner said. "I think the feeling is that's if we don't do things correctly. It's never been said they'll reopen it if we're doing a really good job. Not being an attorney, I can't say if they're willing to do that or not.”
Penn State faces a four-year postseason ban and loss of 40 scholarships over four years, in addition to more than $70 million in fines in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
“I’m gonna make sure we’re compliant in every single way,” O’Brien said. “In the six months that I’ve been there, we’ve had four or five compliance meetings. And I wanna make that clear that many, many, many things have already taken place before the sanctions came out.
“We opened up our doors. You’ve had more access to Penn State football in the last six months than you had in the last 30 years.”