The NCAA has removed the postseason ban on Penn State’s football team as well as the scholarship penalty it had placed on the athletic squad after the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal of 2012.
In 2011, Sandusky, a former defensive coach for the university’s football team, who continued to have access to its facilities, was charged with sexually abusing 10 boys for over a decade. Since that time, more victims have come forward.
Some of the incidents occurred on campus, bringing into question the university’s handling of the situation when it was suggested that some faculty may have been aware of the goings on.
US Senator George Mitchell was named athletics integrity monitor for the university.
As a result of the scandal, the NCAA fined the university $60 million and gave the football program a four-year postseason ban, a five-year probation period, and reduced the amount of scholarships over four years by 40. All wins between 1998 and 2011 were taken away.
However, earlier this week two of those sanctions were withdrawn under a recommendation from Mitchell.
“In light of Penn State’s responsiveness to its obligations and the many improvements it has instituted, I believe these student-athletes should have the opportunity to play in the post-season should they earn it on the field this year,” Mitchell wrote. “The maximum number of student-athletes ought to be given the chance both to receive a quality education and be active in sports.
Mitchell also suggested that if Penn State continues on this path that his role as integrity monitor will come to an end earlier than its set end date of 2017.
For games played in 2012 and 2013, the team was not eligible for bowl games, which bring with them extra television appearances and exposure for players who are considering going pro. With these recommendations, that goal can be put back in place.
“During this bowl ban we weren’t playing for wins, championships, or bowls but simply for each other and Penn State,” linebacker Nyeem Wartman posted on Twitter. “I love my team and PSU.”
The school will still be responsible for the fines and all 111 wins that occurred during the stated time frame will remain forfeited.
“Our student-athletes and our entire student body are to be commended for their resiliency and spirit during a challenging time,” said Eric Barron, Penn State’s president. “We also are grateful for the dedication and commitment to success on and off the field of our football student-athletes and the leadership of coach James Franklin and coach Bill O’Brien before him.”
The scandal came under the watch of beloved Penn State head coach Joe Paterno, who coached the Nittany Lion football team for 45 years. When the investigation revealed that Paterno concealed information about Sandusky’s crimes, Paterno was fired from the school, dying of complications of lung cancer a little more than two months later in early 2012.
According to Scott Paterno, Joe Paterno’s son, a lawsuit against the NCAA and Penn State will continue despite the reductions. The suit was filed for damages the family feels was inflicted upon them as a result of the consent decree.
“Finding out the full truth is the first priority and focus,” Paterno said. “I am also hopeful and certain that at some time his victories will be restored.”
Sandusky was sentenced to 30-60 years in prison — effectively a life sentence for the 70-year-old.
So far, the school has paid almost $60 million in fines to the victims.