Source: Penn State to be hit with fines in excess of $30 million
By Ross Levitt and Susan Candiotti
(CNN) — Penn State University will be hit with fines in excess of $30 million as part of “significant, unprecedented penalties” expected to be announced Monday by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, a source familiar with the case told CNN on Sunday.
While the school’s football program will not face the so-called “death penalty” that would have prevented the team from playing in the fall, the school might have preferred a one-year suspension because of the severity of the scholarship losses, postseason sanctions and other penalties, the source said.
“If I were Penn State or any other school and were given both options, I’d pick the death penalty,” the source said, adding the range of sanctions “is well beyond what has been done in the past” and “far worse than closing the program for a year.”
The expected punishment is part of the continued fallout from the child sex abuse scandal involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted in late June of 45 of the 48 counts he faced involving 10 young victims.
The news came the same day the statue of Penn State’s iconic head football coach Joe Paterno was removed from outside the campus stadium.
The NCAA’s punishments follow an independent investigation led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, whose report held four top Penn State officials, including Paterno, responsible for failing to stop the abuse.
Everything the NCAA “needed to know was detailed in the Freeh report,” according to the source.
Monday in Indianapolis, the NCAA plans a press conference “to announce NCAA corrective and punitive measures for the Pennsylvania State University,” it said in a statement.
The NCAA last imposed the so-called “death penalty” to a football team in 1987 against Southern Methodist University’s program in the wake of a payments-to-athletes scandal.
The source says the sanctions “will really paint a picture that essentially says that leadership failure and systemic failures can’t be tolerated.”
NCAA President Mark Emmert wrote a letter to Penn State President Rodney Erickson in November that included four questions he wanted the university to answer.
According to the source, the NCAA felt the questions were answered by the Freeh report and therefore it could act before the university responded.
The source wasn’t sure if the university has been made aware of the penalties yet but says the university was not involved in the decision. It was “not a negotiated process,” the source said.
While not divulging specifics, the source said, “The penalties go well beyond the loss of a scholarship or not being able to go to a bowl game.”
The source also said the plan includes provisions to provide “leeway” and “minimize the impact” on current players who had nothing to do with the Sandusky scandal.
Also Sunday, in State College, Pennsylvania, the 900-pound bronze statue of Paterno was removed. Penn State President Rodney Erickson said in a statement the statue is being stored in a “secure location.”
The statue was removed exactly six months after Paterno, the winningest coach in Division I football history, died of lung cancer. Paterno had coached at Penn State for 61 years, 15 of them as an assistant. He died less than three months after he coached his last game, an October 29 victory over Illinois that gave him a record 409 wins.
Under Paterno’s 46-season tenure as head coach, the Nittany Lions won two national championships, went undefeated five times, and finished in the top 25 national rankings 35 times.
The tribute to the coach, who died in January, had become an object of contention after the child rape scandal involving Sandusky.
However, Paterno’s family said they believe taking down the statue serves no purpose.
“Tearing down the statue of Joe Paterno does not serve the victims of Jerry Sandusky’s horrible crimes or help heal the Penn State community. We believe the only way to help the victims is to uncover the full truth,” the family said in a statement.
“It is not the university’s responsibility to defend or protect Joe Paterno. But they at least should have acknowledged that important legal cases are still pending and that the record on Joe Paterno, the board and other key players is far from complete,” it added.
Dan Vecellio, a staff writer for the blog Black Shoe Diaries, said there were about 100 people who watched the statue taken down, put on a forklift and driven into the stadium through a loading-dock door.
The Freeh report found several Penn State officials concealed evidence that Sandusky had sexually abused minors. Freeh concluded that Paterno could have prevented further sexual abuse had he taken action.
“I now believe that, contrary to its original intention, coach Paterno’s statue has become a source of division and an obstacle to healing in our university and beyond,” Erickson said.
“I believe that, were it to remain, the statue will be a recurring wound to the multitude of individuals across the nation and beyond who have been the victims of child abuse,” he added.
Sunday, Penn State employees began placing fencing around the statue, as well as a tarp. Local and university police were at the scene, and some students gathered near the football field, Beaver Stadium.
Another tribute to Paterno — the university library that bears his name — will remain as it is, Erickson said.
“The library remains a tribute to Joe and Sue Paterno’s commitment to Penn State’s student body and academic success, and it highlights the positive impacts coach Paterno had on the university,” he wrote.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) called Paterno “a powerful man who acted selfishly” who “deserves no public honors whatsoever.”
“We’re glad the statue is gone but that’s just a tiny step forward,” SNAP spokesman David Clohessy said in a statement. “We as a society must learn that a good way to deter child sex cover-ups is to punish, not praise, those who instigate such cover-ups.”
Sandusky is expected to be sentenced in September. His legal team has said it will appeal the convictions.
Two former university administrators are awaiting trial for their role in the scandal, and more charges are possible as the state’s attorney general investigates what Penn State may have known about Sandusky’s behavior.
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