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Penn State Trustees React to Reports of NCAA's Close Ties to Freeh Investigation

by on November 12, 2014 7:00 PM

More aftershocks follow reports that the NCAA was closely involved in the Freeh investigation that rocked Penn State.

Some members of the Penn State Board of Trustees now say the NCAA's role in the Freeh investigation isn't shocking - but it is upsetting.

“I’m not surprised at all,” Trustee Al Lord says. “Of course they were involved with the investigation.”

Lord has argued for a more thorough examination of the Freeh report numerous times during his tenure as a trustee. He did so most recently in a resolution that was voted down by the board in October.

Penn State hired investigator Louis Freeh to look into the university’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal in 2011. His report, released in July 2012, condemned university leaders for failing to protect children from abuse and for allegedly covering up what happened. The Freeh report became the basis for the NCAA’s sanctions against Penn State.

“My view is that Louis Freeh worked hand-in-hand with the NCAA during the investigation,” Lord says. “It seems he got direction from the NCAA, and the NCAA probably got direction back from him without ever acting independently of each other.”

State Senator Jake Corman made a similar argument in commonwealth court documents filed on Tuesday. The filing suggests that the NCAA remained in constant contact with the Freeh group throughout the investigation, and includes over 100 pages of emails between the two organizations as evidence.

NCAA Chief Legal Officer Donald Remy says in an official statement provided by email that the suggestion that NCAA was inappropriately involved with the Freeh investigation is “irresponsible.” He says the NCAA made it clear it would monitor the investigation through periodic updates without interfering in the process.

"The Freeh Group investigation was completely and entirely independent from the NCAA and these updates intentionally and purposely did not include any information regarding the substance of the investigation. “Nothing about the materials the plaintiffs released is inconsistent with these facts.”

Trustee Anthony Lubrano disagrees.

“This confirms what I’ve been saying for a long time,” Lubrano says. “The NCAA performed not an investigation, but a prosecution.”

He expects Corman’s filing to be a topic of conversation among board members during an executive session when the board meets this Thursday and Friday. Lubrano's unsure whether that conversation will continue into their public discussion on Friday.

Fellow trustee Robert Jubelirer is equally upset, and says this filing indicates that the NCAA and the Freeh group “ganged up” on Penn State to damage the university’s reputation.

He's not sure how the board as a whole will react, but Jubelirer would argue for the return of all money Penn State paid to Louis Freeh, as well as the restoration of the NCAA’s $60 million fine against Penn State. He also says the 111 football wins between 1998 and 2012 that the NCAA vacated from Penn State’s record should be restored.

Alumni elected by trustees (which includes Lord, Lubrano and Jubelirer) and industry-appointed alumni have been starkly divided on questions surrounding the NCAA and the Freeh report. Appointed trustees – the majority of the board – have driven the board’s decisions on these topics.

Seventeen trustees did not respond to requests for comment about the NCAA emails.

Corman’s filing implicating the NCAA in the Freeh investigation comes at a time when the NCAA has already come under fire.

Internal NCAA emails from 2012 were released last week that referred to the threat of sanctions against Penn State as “a bluff.” They also questioned whether the NCAA had the authority or jurisdiction to impose such sanctions. 

In response, former trustee Joel Myers released a statement on Tuesday threatening legal action against the NCAA. He also called on the board of trustees to demand that state and federal authorities investigate the NCAA to determine if the athletic organization acted in a criminal manner.

“I applaud Joel for adding his voice to the many who have already condemned the NCAA’s conduct,” alumni-elected trustee Barbara Doran says in an email. “The NCAA scammed Penn State and we cannot let this stand."

She hopes Myers’ call to action will sway the opinion of board members who opposed examining the Freeh report in October.

Lubrano says he’s glad that Myers has taken a stand against the NCAA, but adds that he wishes his opposition had come sooner.

Myers says he’s received favorable responses from a handful of trustees but declined further explanation, as these conversations are ongoing. He also says he’s been consistently critical of the NCAA’s sanctions, and that his letter to the trustees is only the latest step in his ongoing commitment to Penn State.

“I think if the NCAA influenced what Freeh did, that just adds to the damage,” Myers says. “I think that as we wait and watch, more and more of this is going to come out.”

Editor's note: Joel Myers is the father of Dan Myers, the owner of StateCollege.com.

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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for StateCollege.com who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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