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Penn State Trustees Clash Over NCAA Lawsuit

by on December 10, 2014 8:35 PM

The battle lines have perhaps never been more sharply drawn, as two factions on the Penn State Board of Trustees now appear to be on a collision course.

The two sides are split over a proposal to switch sides in the on-going lawsuit between state officials and the NCAA.

A group of nine trustees -- all of them elected by Penn State alumni -- sent a letter to board chair Keith Masser asking for a special meeting to consider the issue.

Masser fired right back with a highly-critical letter of his own. He's refusing to take part in any meeting and is suggesting that other board members do the same.

In a news release issued Wednesday evening, the alumni-elected trustees said they're hoping to "re-engage" the rest of the board in a discussion about Penn State's position concerning the lawsuit brought by Pennsylvania State Sen. Jake Corman and Treasurer Rob McCord.

Within hours, Masser responded, saying he asked the alumni-elected trustees to withdraw their request for a special meeting and that they refused. A notice about the special meeting will go out on Thursday.

However, Masser says he's concerned "by the single-minded focus and the steady stream of resolutions that have required inordinate amounts of trustee time spent on one issue ...

"I am not intending to attend or participate in any special meeting to consider the matter," says Masser. " Members of the Board are likewise free to decide whether or not to attend any such meeting. I note that under the Bylaws, no action may be taken at any regular or special meeting unless a quorum of the members of the Board are present."

Contacted by phone, alumni-elected trustee Anthony Lubrano fired off his own salvo. "Irresponsible," Lubrano said of Masser's stand. "Irresponsible leadership once again. To encourage members not to attend to discuss such an important topic is irresponsible.

"We'll be there. We would like to discuss it with the chair but we will discuss it with public and the media."

Asked what will happen if there is no quorum, Lubrano says they can still have a conversation. "We're going to be there and hope the chairman will have a change of heart," he adds.

The lawsuit began as a legal tug-of-war over the Endowment Act. That legislation was passed to force the NCAA to spend the $60 million fine it imposed on Penn State in the state of Pennsylvania. The NCAA calls the Endowment Act unconstitutional and has filed a separate lawsuit in federal court.

The issue came to a head when emails included in court filings by Corman and McCord suggested the NCAA was "bluffing" when it threatened sanctions in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. Those emails also revealed that some NCAA insiders questioned whether the NCAA had the authority to take action.

In September, the NCAA offered to abide by the Endowment Act and asked to have the lawsuit filed by McCord and Corman dismissed. However, Commonwealth Court Judge Ann Covey rejected that motion, saying that the court needed to decide whether the consent decree is valid.

The consent decree, signed by former Penn State President Rodney Erickson, cleared the way for the NCAA to issue sanctions against the football team. Those sanctions included the loss of scholarships, a ban on bowl games, the vacation of 112 wins and that $60 million fine. Covey has set a January trial date.

At the board of trustees meeting on Nov. 14, Lubrano proposed a resolution to make the university a plaintiff against the NCAA in the Corman-McCord lawsuit. Penn State is currently a defendant with the NCAA. In a 14-10 vote Lubrano's proposal was tabled until the next board meeting in January.

In Wednesday's news release alumni-elected trustee Robert Jubelirer said, "With the trial set to begin in early January, we believe the board must delay no longer to join the Commonwealth, Senator Corman and Treasurer McCord to void the NCAA Consent Decree."

"Like Dr. Barron, I find the NCAA's self-proclaimed 'bluff' of Penn State into accepting football sanctions in 2012 to be deeply disturbing," said Barbara Doran, another alumni-elected trustee. "It is time to act."

In a statement released Nov. 5, Penn State President Eric Barron and board of trustees chair Keith Masser called the NCAA emails "deeply disturbing." That statement also said the university would be considering its options.

The Trustees have called for the special meeting to be held on Monday, Dec. 15  at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center beginning at 4 pm.

News Release From Penn State Alumni-Elected Trustees 12-10-14

Keith Masser Letter to the Board of Trustees 12-10-14

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Steve Bauer was the Managing Editor of Steve and his wife Trina are longtime area residents. They reside in State College along with a wacky Golden Retriever named Izzy.
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