Penn State President Rodney Erickson gets chastised for university’s tacit acceptance of Freeh Report

By Charles Thompson |

The Freeh Report reared its head at today’s Senate hearing on the state’s annual appropriation to Penn State.

Several lawmakers engaged in the fight against the NCAA penalties that flowed from its findings lightly grilled President Rodney Erickson for letting former FBI Director Louis Freeh‘s narrative stand last summer as the official word on the university’s management of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

Freeh’s conclusions, you will remember, were that Penn State’s top leaders chose to handle a 2001 allegation against Sandusky internally rather than turn them over to police or other investigative agencies.

That act of omission, Freeh and later state prosecutors have alleged, helped set the stage for assaults on several other boys over the next seven years.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Jake Corman, R-Centre, referencing the longstanding complaints about gaps in Freeh’s work, asked Erickson if he still believes its conclusions are accurate.

Erickson ducked, arguing it is “not appropriate for me to comment on that question here in this kind of forum.”

Noting there are pending criminal and civil cases that still have to play out, Erickson said, “I think it’s appropriate that we let the investigative and the judicial process take its course Mr. Chairman, with all due respect.”

And Corman pounced.

“But when Penn State decided to release this report without any review or due diligence it already entered into the fray of these criminal trials and to the public discourse of how this matter is treated….”

Corman then acknowledged the pressures the university was under at the time, noting “there is no manual to walk yourself through this.”

But, he concluded, “I guess I wish you would have taken that same position prior to the (release of the) report, which has been used not only to punish Penn State” but to frame the public narrative of the case.

On the whole, it was a gentler version of similar critiques Erickson has already received at various alumni town halls, or that he and trustees routinely field at public board meetings these days.

But given that Corman is perhaps Penn State’s most influential ally in the state legislature, today’s back and forth was another forceful reminder that the Sandusky wounds have not yet healed.

Erickson fielded other questions during today’s hearings about the Freeh report from Sen. John Yudichak, D-Luzerne County, and inquiries about the NCAA fine from Sen. Patricia Vance, R-Cumberland County

Pennsylvania Senator Comments on NCAA Response

HARRISBURG – Sen. Jake Corman (R-34) has issued the following statement regarding the NCAA’s challenge of Pennsylvania law.

“The recent NCAA litigation challenging Act 1 will delay the Penn State fine money from positively impacting programs and services that assist child abuse victims in Pennsylvania. In arguing that Pennsylvania has no role in the policy decisions of a state-related institution, the NCAA has gone well beyond its bylaws and believes it can operate as an unchecked governing body,” said Corman.

“Act 1 was carefully crafted to not impair the consent decree between Penn State University and the NCAA, and the law is constitutional.

“The NCAA has clearly misrepresented Penn State University as a private institution, as well as the parameters set forth in the consent decree.

NCAA President Mark Emmert’s statement that Act 1 is nothing more than an attempt to benefit the ‘home team’ is not only inaccurate, but also exemplifies the organization’s delusional understanding of the law. Penn State University receives no gain from Act 1 — the only people who will benefit are Pennsylvania’s sexual abuse victims.  As the money is being derived from a Commonwealth-supported institution of higher education and being generated by state residents, the fine money should be distributed in Pennsylvania.

“In light of the court challenge and Mark Emmert’s statements, state-related and public universities, which are members of the NCAA, should call for a change in the NCAA leadership and operational standards. The NCAA federal lawsuit is an unfortunate power grab by the NCAA, who appears to be more concerned with its national reputation than actually using the $60 million for those who need it the most.”

Effort to Keep NCAA Fine of 60M in Pennsylvania

By Jessica VanderKolk —

State Sen.  Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, announced Thursday he plans to introduce legislation in January that would keep the NCAA’s entire $60 million fine against Penn State in Pennsylvania.

He said he also will file a lawsuit, seeking to prohibit the  NCAA from releasing funds to any organization outside of Pennsylvania.

The  fine was part of the university’s punishment following the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. Penn State this month paid the first, $12 million, installment and has five years to pay the entire amount.

Corman’s legislation generally would require that any governing body-issued fine above $10 million against a university receiving state money would remain in an in-state endowment.

He said spreading out the $60 million Penn State fine to address child abuse issues nationally would not have a significant impact.

“I think you should set Pennsylvania up as a model,” Corman said. “These are funds from a public university, athletic department dollars. They’re coming largely from Pennsylvanians, so it should go to the betterment of Pennsylvania.”

Penn State did not offer any comment on Corman’s proposal.

“We haven’t seen it so we couldn’t comment,” spokesman David La Torre wrote in an email.

Corman said the legislation would not impede on the consent decree signed by the NCAA and Penn State, agreeing to the sanctions against the university. The section related to the fine does not specify where the money must be spent, only that it may not fund programs at the university.

“Our goal is to have a policy in place that, if a university is subject to something of this nature, they would need to set up an endowment in Pennsylvania,” he said.

Corman said he sent an initial letter to the NCAA which, from initial announcement of the sanctions,  has pledged to keep at least 25 percent of Penn State’s fine in Pennsylvania. He said the reply from Chief Financial Officer Kathleen McNeely was that the 25 percent was “not a number they were willing to move on.”

Corman said he followed up with a letter to NCAA President Mark Emmert, offering to fly to Indianapolis, where the organization is based, for a meeting.

“He won’t give us a meeting,” Corman said, adding he had not received a reply. “So we’ve now tried to move in a different direction, to try to solve this problem legislatively.”

When asked for comment, an NCAA spokeswoman responded with links to the organization’s website that discuss its  Child Sexual Abuse Endowment Task Force, which will determine the “structure and policies” for the fund created by the Penn State fine.