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Some Penn State Board of Trustees Members File Appeal of NCAA Sanctions

by on August 06, 2012 3:38 PM

A handful of members of the Penn State Board of Trustees have joined together to file an appeal with the NCAA over the sanctions dealt to Penn State, citing a lack of due process afforded to the university, ESPN reported Monday

Capt. Ryan McCombie, a former Navy SEAL and new board member, sent a letter to other board members later obtained by ESPN's "Outside the Lines."

In the letter, McCombie told fellow board members he hired a Boston-based attorney and intends to discover whether Penn State President Rodney Erickson was authorized to accept the sanctions without consulting the board. 

Sources told ESPN the move is a precursor to a federal lawsuit asking a judge to invalidate the sanctions, because trustees expect the NCAA to reject the appeal.

Penn State spokesman Dave La Torre said the university had no comment. Overall, there are 32 members on Penn State's Board of Trustees.

On Wednesday, board chairwoman Karen Peetz said in her monthly statement that the board intends to comply with the sanctions and supports Erickson.

In a three-hour closed-door meeting on July 25, the board discussed the contract Erickson signed with NCAA President Mark Emmert that accepted the sanctions and acknowledged former Penn State administrators' concealment of Jerry Sandusky's child sex abuse. 

This appeal comes right on the heels of the Paterno family's appeal of the NCAA's sanctions, which was announced Friday via the family's attorney, Wick Sollers. The family said "enormous damage" had been done to Penn State.

Later Friday, NCAA Vice President of Communications Bob Williams wrote on Twitter that "the Penn State sanctions are not subject to appeal."


Ryan McCombie’s Appeal to the Board of Trustees Monday, as provided by a Facebook group PSU-ReBOT.

Dear fellow board members

The challenges we have dealt with over the past year have been the
most difficult and demanding that any Board of a Public University has
ever faced. The issues are incredibly painful and highly contentious
and the path that we should follow is anything but clear. Nonetheless,
it is our mission to determine what happened without favor or bias
toward the responsible parties, just as it is our duty as trustees to
act in the best interests of Penn State. I do not believe the recent
actions of the Administration and the NCAA have been consistent with
that mission, and I cannot but feel that our inaction is a failure in
our duty. I believe we owe to all involved – especially our University
community – to insist on and require full due process before we accept
these penalties.

Due process is not a theoretical concept to me. It is one of the core
values that I fought for as a Navy Seal and as a 26-year veteran of
the US Navy. I spent much of my adult life in 3rd world countries
ruled by tyrannical dictators. Little did I know upon retiring from
this exciting yet stressful vocation to bucolic Central PA, that I
would become embroiled in a comparable experience here.

I respect Louis Freeh and I appreciate the work he and his staff did
to investigate the handling of the Sandusky matter. At the same time,
I think it is important to recognize that the Freeh report is not the
equivalent of a legal hearing or review. No one testified under oath;
multiple key witnesses were not interviewed; accused parties were not
given a fair chance to respond; the findings were highly subjective;
and several individuals are still waiting to have their day in court.
Yet despite these very serious limitations and others, our Board
allowed the Freeh report to be presented as a full and fair review,
which it most certainly is not; and we stood by passively while the
University accepted an unprecedented penalty from the NCAA, based
entirely on the findings of the Freeh report. These are grave mistakes
that inflict undue harm on the entire Penn State community, in
addition to compromising the rights of numerous individuals.

The argument that is given on all of these issues is that we must do
whatever we can to serve the victims and act in a way that eliminates
the chance that something like this can ever happen again. I support
that end and understand the sentiment behind it, but also know that we
owe it to our University and the constituencies we represent to demand
due process in this matter. Our desire for speed and decisiveness
cannot and must not justify actions that clearly and decisively
compromise the future of this institution, unfairly tarnish its
reputation and violate the rights of accused individuals. If in the
rush to put this crisis behind us, we act in a way that limits the
discovery of the full truth or unfairly blames certain individuals,
while exempting others who rightfully deserve blame, we will have
completely failed on the most important task this Board will ever

It is for these reasons that I have decided to file an appeal today
with the NCAA seeking a full due process hearing. Additionally, I will
be, along with others, seeking to determine whether President Erickson
had the authority to enter into the consent decree absent Board
approval. It is my belief that this matter did require board approval
and that we should engage in a full, and complete, review. In the end,
we all benefit from having this matter handled correctly and with full
regard for due process – only then can we be truly confident in the
result and the actions we take as a board. Furthermore, only after we
have given all involved the opportunity to be heard can we move
forward together as one University.

It is my sincere hope that some or all of you will join me on this
path. If you wish to join in my appeal, please contact my attorney,
Paul Kelly, at (617) 305-1263, or by email

Let me also be clear: I do not do this seeking a predetermined result
nor do I claim to know what the final answers will be. If there is
blame to be borne by any or all of our officials, a due process
hearing will not hide that fact and I will accept it – as will the
tens of thousands of Penn Staters out there not assuaged by a limited

I know my actions will be poorly received by some on this board and in
the community at large. To that end it would be easier to remain
silent and allow these unfair actions to remain unchallenged. I cannot
do this. As long as I am a member of this board, I will fight to learn
the full truth of the Sandusky scandal and then, and only then,
endorse the assignment of blame and the imposition of sanctions.

For the Glory,

Ryan J. McCombie

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