STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — The NCAA will restore the scholarships Penn State lost in the crushing sanctions imposed after the Jerry Sandusky scandal, as the organization recognizes that that university has pushed ahead with “significant momentum” to make sweeping changes to the way it runs.
Penn State’s football team will see five scholarships added back each year starting in 2014-15, with the full complement of 85 scholarships set for 2016-17, NCAA officials said Tuesday in announcing the modification to the sanctions.
The NCAA’s executive committee approved giving back the scholarships after a recommendation from former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, who was appointed by the NCAA to oversee Penn State’s progress in adopting a number of reforms to enhance its security, ethics, governance and compliance structure. Mitchell, who said he’d been given unfettered access to documentation and employees, praised Penn State’s efforts in the first yearly progress report, which was issued earlier this month.
Under the terms of the NCAA’s consent decree, Penn State was required to adopt all of the 119 recommendations in former FBI director Louis Freeh’s report, and the university put in place all but a few. The Freeh recommendations include requiring background checks on new employees, restricting access to athletics facilities and the hiring of a staff member to ensure the university complies with federal crime-reporting requirements.
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The university also had followed the terms of an athletics integrity agreement, which lays out specific requirements for the athletics department.
Many in the Penn State community were hopeful that Mitchell’s positive progress report would pave the way for the NCAA to have a change of heart.
Mitchell said Penn State had made a “good-faith effort to embrace and adopt the changes needed to enhance its future.”
“While there is more work to be done, Penn State has clearly demonstrated its commitment to restoring integrity in its athletics program,” Mitchell said Tuesday. “The university has substantially completed the initial implementation of all the Freeh Report recommendations and its obligations to the Athletics Integrity Agreement, so relief from the scholarship reductions is warranted and deserved.”
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