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Penn State Trustees Voice Support for Rodney Erickson, Take No Vote

by on August 12, 2012 8:09 PM

The Penn State Board of Trustees did not make a motion or vote during the special meeting via teleconference Sunday, but nearly every trustee pledged support for Penn State President Rodney Erickson's acceptance of the NCAA consent decree. 

When it was announced Thursday, the board meeting's intention was to ratify the NCAA consent decree Erickson signed on July 23, acknowledging Penn State's concealment of Jerry Sandusky's rampant child sexual abuse over more than a decade and accepting the sanctions dealt.

Peetz explained the reason for the meeting and the factors that led to no vote being taken in her opening statement, saying that the meeting's intent was to clear up, once and for all, any confusion, questions or concern regarding the NCAA's binding consent decree. 

Ratification of the decree is not required, Peetz said, though she was going to give the trustees that option. However, because Ryan McCombie withdrew his appeal of the NCAA sanctions and because of some technical legal issues regarding the university's charter not meshing with the board's bylaws, no vote could be taken via teleconference and within the time frame the board was notified of the meeting.

She reiterated the board intends to comply with the NCAA sanctions and supports Erickson in his decision to sign the agreement. 

Erickson spoke briefly and said he was contacted on July 13, the day after the Freeh report was released, by NCAA President Mark Emmert. Emmert told Erickson many members of the NCAA compliance committee were shocked by facts that came out during the Sandusky trial and revealed in the Freeh report. 

Some were even "out for blood," he said and favored a multi-year death penalty. Erickson reiterated that the alternative to the sanctions Penn State received would have been the death penalty, resulting in no football for several years while costs continued to accrue and Penn State unsuccessfully battled lawsuits in court. 

"I have to tell you this was far and away the most difficult decision I made in my 40-plus years in academia," Erickson said.

Several guest speakers were brought in to address the sanctions, including Gene Marsh, former chairman of the NCAA infractions committee and attorney with Lightfoot, Franklin and White, and Steve Dunham, Penn State vice president and counsel. 

Marsh said the problem was rooted in Penn State's culture, which led to the administration's and board's oversight.

It was the worst case of a loss of institutional control the board had ever seen," Marsh said. 

This was not a case where due process would have been afforded per a 1988 Supreme Court decision. Also, Dunham said due process does not tell institutions, such as universities or businesses, that they are barred from acting based on recommendations, like the Freeh report. 

Dunham said Clery investigators will return to Penn State's campus Monday and board members will be kept up-to-date on their action. 

Peetz allowed each board member a moment to speak. The board unanimously backed Erickson, including former Penn State football player Adam Taliaferro and McCombie, who said he would no longer pursue his appeal of the NCAA sanctions. 

Trustee Anthony Lubrano said he supports Erickson but that does not carry over to the NCAA sanctions. However, Peetz pointed out that the consent decree does not need to be voted on by the board to be accepted. 

The board adjourned with each member having voiced his or her intent to collectively move forward. 

"We're gonna be fine," Erickson said. 

Laura Nichols is a news reporter and @LC_Nichols on Twitter.
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