Penn State faced the threat of a four-year ban on playing football before the NCAA issued its punishment this week for how it handled the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal, a university spokesman said Wednesday.
David La Torre said the potential for the multiyear "death penalty" was floated during discussions between Penn State President Rodney Erickson and NCAA officials before Monday, when Penn State was issued a $60 million fine, a four-year bowl game ban, reduced football scholarships and the forfeiture of 112 wins.
The school trustees met on the subject at State College hotel Wednesday, and afterward issued a statement calling the NCAA punishment "unfortunate" but better than the alternatives. Reporters were barred from the conference room where they met, and trustees avoided them after the meeting broke up.
The potential for a four-year ban, first reported by ESPN, showed how high the stakes were as college sports' governing body considered how to respond to an internal school investigation by former FBI Director Louis Freeh that found former coach Joe Paterno and three other top college officials helped conceal reports that Sandusky was abusing children.
NCAA president Mark Emmert said this week that if a total football ban had been imposed, other penalties would have accompanied it.
"If the death penalty were to be imposed, I'm quite sure that the executive committee and I ... would not have agreed to just the death penalty. It would have included other penalties as well," Emmert said as the sanctions were unveiled.
The Penn State Board of Trustees issued a statement Wednesday about NCAA penalties levied earlier in the week, which include a $60 million fine and the vacating of 112 wins:
"The Penn State Board of Trustees met for a discussion tonight. A vote was not required and none was taken. The Board finds the punitive sanctions difficult and the process with the NCAA unfortunate. But as we understand it, the alternatives were worse as confirmed by NCAA President Mark Emmert's recent statement that Penn State was likely facing a multi-year death sentence. The University and Board resolve to move forward together to recognize the historical excellence in Penn State's academic and athletic programs. We anticipate and look forward to demonstrating our outstanding performance in complying with the sanctions. We continue to recognize the important role that intercollegiate athletics provides for our student athletes and the wider University community as we strive to appropriately balance academic and athletic accomplishments. Penn State will remain a world-class educational institution of which our students, faculty, staff and alumni can be justifiably proud. The commitment demonstrated by our student athletes in recent days embodies all that is good about Penn State and we look forward to unprecedented support by the Nittany nation when we take the field this fall."
-- The Associated Press
Many alumni, and some trustees, have expressed dismay at the NCAA action, which will cost Penn State tens of millions of dollars and likely cripple its football team for years to come.
Some trustees had expressed concern that Erickson may have violated a board rule that says the board must authorize the signing of "contracts, legal documents, and other obligations," but the board statement made no reference to that, saying they held a discussion but did not take any votes.
"The board finds the punitive sanctions difficult and the process with the NCAA unfortunate," they said. "But as we understand it, the alternatives were worse as confirmed by NCAA President Mark Emmert's recent statement that Penn State was likely facing a multi-year death sentence."
La Torre said Wednesday that Erickson had authority to act without the approval of the full board.