Penn State President Rodney Erickson and a panel of experts appeared Sunday morning on CBS’s Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer to discuss the sanctions that the NCAA handed down against the university in response to the university’s handling of the sex-abuse scandal that ended the career of Coach Joe Paterno.
Under the sanctions announced last Monday, Penn State was fined $60 million, had its football scholarships reduced, was banned from postseason games for four years and players were allowed to transfer to other universities without penalty. These penalties, however, were less severe than the so-called “death penalty” that would have ended Penn State’s football program for several years.
“Joe Paterno and Penn State were basically synonymous,” Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriot-News reporter Sara Ganim told Schieffer during another segment of the program. “This was almost idol worship at this point of Joe Paterno, and it’s just not fair to the fans.”
A recent report by former FBI Director Louis Freeh found that Paterno; Erickson’s predecessor, Graham Spanier; athletic director Tim Curley; and Penn State Vice President Gary Schultz did nothing to stop former Coach Jerry Sandusky from sexually abusing several boys and covered it up instead.
“Joe Paterno was basically a dictator, and it took an appeal to the state Supreme Court to get his salary, which was public,” said Newsweek/Daily Beast contributor Buzz Bissinger. “He knew something was going on in 1998, and he definitely, according to the Freeh report, had an impact on the decision that was made in 2001, at the end of the day Jerry Sandusky was part of the football mafia family.
“And as long as you don’t rat, you are a member of the family.”
Erickson has faced criticism for his decision to accept the NCAA’s consent decree allowing the football program to continue but subject to severe sanctions, but he said accepting it was the right thing to do.
“It allows us to go on and support the other intercollegiate athletic teams that we have at the university,” Erickson said. “There were certain aspects of the sanctions, certainly, that were very heavy, but we were given a choice, and continue to think that was the best choice we could make under the circumstances.
“It allows us to move forward.”
The university plans to re-examine the athletic department’s somewhat autonomous relationship with the rest of the university, which Erickson said may have contributed to scandal.
Asked how the university would handle lawsuits that will undoubtedly arise from Sandusky’s actions, Erickson said the university has adequate insurance to cover any judgments.
“We hope to settle many of these cases as quickly as possible,” Erickson said. “We don’t want, if possible, to drag victims through another round of court cases and litigation if we can come to an agreement with them, with their attorneys, we believe that could be the best possible outcome.”
Penn State will pay the $60 million fine over the next several years from reserve monies allocated for the football program and from a long-term loan that the university will give to the athletic department, according to Erickson.