Monday, September 08, 2014

NCAA clears Penn State for postseason eligibility, restores scholarships

It's a stunning gambit of public relations which superseded the news that the Baltimore Ravens terminated the contract of suspended running back Ray Rice in light of new video evidence regarding the assault on his wife in Atlantic City. 

The NCAA announced on Monday afternoon that Penn State will have its postseason eligibility reinstated and full scholarships restored.
 
Courtesy of the NCAA's website

"Due to Penn State University’s significant progress toward ensuring its athletics department functions with integrity, the NCAA Executive Committee today eliminated the school’s postseason ban, effective immediately, and will return the full complement of football scholarships in 2015-16.
The committee’s action endorses recommendations released today by George Mitchell, the university’s athletics oversight monitor, in his latest report.
I
n addition to the scholarship and postseason participation changes, Mitchell also recommended that if Penn State continues to make impressive progress at the conclusion of the 2015 report, Mitchell’s oversight may conclude substantially earlier than 2017, the date set forth in the original agreement 
between the NCAA and Penn State.

'Penn State’s commitment to the integrity of its athletics department and its progress toward meeting the requirements of the Consent Decree are clear,” said Northern Arizona President Rita Hartung Cheng, who chaired Monday’s Executive Committee meeting. “We thank Senator Mitchell for his meticulous and exhaustive work over the past two years. Mitchell’s efforts and the dedication of Penn State officials made today’s decisions possible.'

Executive Committee leadership met Monday with the NCAA Division I Board of Directors and presidents from the Big Ten Conference prior to taking a vote on the action. During these discussions, Mitchell briefed the group on his work to date and the university’s compliance with the athletics integrity agreement.

The Board of Directors also accepted Mitchell’s report and endorsed the Executive Committee’s action.

'Penn State has made remarkable progress over the past year,” said Harris Pastides, Board member and University of South Carolina president. “The board members and I believe the Executive Committee’s decision is the right one. It allows both the university and the association to continue to move toward a common goal of ensuring that educating, nurturing and protecting young people is a top priority.'"

The sanctions on the program were put in place in the wake of the scandal involving former PSU defensive coach Jerry Sandusky that eventually enveloped the entire university power structure to the Board of Trustees.

On the field, since the allegations were first brought in the Fall of 2011, Penn State has gone 9-4, 8-4, 7-5.  The Nittany Lions won their 2014 opener in Dublin against Central Florida, in the debut of new head coach James Franklin, and followed up with a victory over Akron this past Saturday in Happy Valley.

Penn State has not participated in a bowl game since dropping a 30-14 decision to Houston in the TicketCity Bowl on Jan. 2, 2012 and hasn't won since a 19-17 triumph over LSU in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1, 2010.
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