Re-examining sanctions a possibility

CHICAGO – NCAA President Mark Emmert said the severe penalties levied against Penn State’s football program were not his decision alone and added the possibility exists for the NCAA to revisit the sanctions at some point.

Tuesday was the one-year anniversary of the NCAA handing down the historic and unprecedented sanctions, which include a four-year bowl ban, massive scholarship reductions and a $60 million fine.

ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” interviewed Emmert and released a Q&A on Tuesday with his thoughts on various topics relating to the sanctions. The NCAA president dispelled the notion that the penalties were made by him alone.

“First of all, it wasn’t my decision,” he told ESPN. “That is one of the biggest points of confusion. This was a decision of the [NCAA] executive committee and the board of directors. I certainly participated in it, but as president of the association the president doesn’t have the authority to make a decision like that.”

Emmert later was asked if the NCAA would consider revisiting the sanctions against Penn State.

“Well, that again would be up to the executive committee,” Emmert said.

“I’d be involved in the conversation, of course,” he added. “Those are again not my decisions to be made.”

Emmert mentioned that the NCAA is monitoring Penn State’s progress through former Sen. George Mitchell, so the governing body can continue to evaluate the university when it comes to handling compliance issues.

“I think that is healthy,” Emmert said. “If at some point the executive committee should want to revisit [the sanctions], they are certainly able to do that.”

Emmert concluded his response on the issue by throwing out a word that has been used against his organization. The NCAA has been accused of levying unprecedented penalties, and Emmert said of revisiting the sanctions, “That, too, would be unprecedented.”

Penn State officials were unavailable for comment Tuesday. Football coach Bill O’Brien and athletic director Dave Joyner are in Chicago for Big Ten media days but were not available to the media.

The NCAA faces a lawsuit, brought about by the family of the late Joe Paterno, that includes hundreds of plaintiffs associated with Penn State. The lawsuit claims the NCAA overstepped its authority and did not allow Penn State due process in issuing the sanctions.

Over the past year, one of the biggest complaints about the NCAA is that it accepted the Freeh report as fact, when many have argued it is a flawed report filled with inaccuracies and speculation.

The NCAA used the Freeh report as the basis for levying the sanctions without conducting its own investigation.

“The collective decision of the board, of the executive committee and of the university was to not go through another 18 months or however long it would take, two years, of inquiry when all of the data were laying there and people were agreeing to what the facts were,” Emmert said.

“So the move to go to a consent decree was something that all parties agreed to and recognized that that wouldn’t make everyone happy.”

A year after the sanctions came down, many people associated with Penn State aren’t just unhappy, they’re livid with how the NCAA handled the situation,

“This was an awful circumstance,” Emmert said. “It had an extraordinarily bad impact on a lot of people’s lives. No one at Penn State was happy about it, obviously. I can’t imagine anybody feeling good about this.”