The Penn State Board of Trustees plans to meet tomorrow at 5 p.m. via conference call, with a single item on its agenda: to ratify (or reject) the consent decree signed by PSU president Rodney Erickson and NCAA president Mark Emmert agreeing upon sanctions against the university in the wake of the Sandusky scandal.
Much speculation surrounds this impending board meeting, not to mention the obvious controversy introduced by several dissenting board members who have challenged the sanctions and written an appeal directly to the NCAA through their high-priced counsel. The dissenters allege that the NCAA should have conducted a thorough, independent investigation instead of merely accepting the Freeh report as written, warts and all, rushing to judgment and punishment of Penn State. They further allege that the full board should have met to consider the proposition, and that Erickson’s signature alone without board approval nullifies the agreement.
Another appeal letter was sent to the board through the same law firm by a group of former Nittany Lions football players and one former assistant coach. The Paterno family has also expressed its intention to appeal the NCAA decision, especially as the sanctions affect their patriarch’s legacy.
Inasmuch as the NCAA has repeatedly stated that the Penn State sanctions are not appealable, the appeals could represent the groundwork for a Federal lawsuit against the NCAA. However, such a course of action would be unlikely to succeed because courts have held in the past that membership in the NCAA is voluntary. To prove that is more than illusory would require an anti-trust suit against the NCAA, and it is doubtful that the USDOJ, at least as it is composed at present, would initiate such an action.
So, what appears to be happening here is a preemptive move by the complacent, docile majority on the board to quash an internal rebellion before it gathers steam and before it garners more public awareness and approval, although Board Chairwoman Karen B. Peetz said that she called the meeting “so there can be no misunderstanding as to we as the board stand.” University legal counsel no doubt advised the BOT to approve the consent decree in order to eliminate one major legal flaw upon which appellants could base their claims.
On Thursday, ESPN reported that there had been a contentious conference call among at least 20 board members last Tuesday, during which straw polls were taken. The majority of the trustees polled did not support appealing the sanctions. Although not all of the 32 trustees participated in the call, a quorum was present for the straw votes. According to spokesman David La Torre, the meeting was a closed executive session whose purpose was for trustees to receive a report from university legal counsel and discuss matters with counsel. La Torre did not elaborate further.
So much for government in the sunshine. No notice was given the public about the conference call, votes were taken, and a quorum was present, which might constitute a violation of the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act, rendering the Tuesday meeting illegal.
As for Sunday’s meeting, La Torre stated that a live audio stream of the meeting would be available at WPSU.org/live and that an audio file and transcription of the minutes would be posted afterward at www.psu.edu/trustees.
There are a myriad questions to be answered here. For one, if Sunday’s meeting was called during the course of an illegal board meeting, does it even matter what happens there? I know that is kind of getting into legal technicalities on which I’m obviously unqualified to opine, but we’re all Philadelphia lawyers at times, even those of us who are not from the Philly area and are turkeys.
Peetz is resolute in her position. Dismissing the dissenters’ comments and actions, she stated, “…it is now time to put this matter to rest and to move on. As I said in my opening remarks on Tuesday evening, we need a laser focus on the future of the university. We need to be unified and we need to work together.” Sounds good, sorta.
On the other hand, Maribeth Roman Schmidt, spokeswoman for PS4RS, stated, “Nothing less than a complete and total rejection of the baseless NCAA consent decree will be acceptable when the Trustees meet to vote this Sunday. We view this call for a meeting as an acknowledgment that Rod Erickson did not indeed have the authority to sign it.”
Are we not seeing the forest for the trees? Is there too much concentrating on picayune details and not enough concern for putting the whole mess behind us and getting on with our future? Shouldn’t we be tired of rubbing our noses in this stink?
Coach O’Brien would like all the bickering to stop, so he and the university can get on about the business at hand. Unfortunately, too many people would like to see some loose ends tied up. Peetz and the Board think that having a meeting to rubber stamp approval of the consent decree should do just that. Alas, in the minds of many, it will constitute yet another attempt to accept the Freeh report without closer analysis and kowtow to the NCAA.
Why would a governing body act that way? Hurry up and cover their asses in retrospect and then stick their collective heads back in the sand? Wouldn’t it be in everybody’s best interest if there were indeed checks and balances instead of rubber stamps? Some of the newer trustees think so and so does this Turkey. Does the majority of the BOT really think that Penn State should be steamrolled by a backroom deal between its president and the NCAA? I don’t think so. There must be more here than meets the smell test.
One contingent out there in PSU Alumniland believes that there is a deep conspiracy involving Second Mile, Jer, and some highly placed current and former Pennsylvania government officials. I won’t go into great detail here, because I have no new information, and I’m not sure about a lot of the ambiguous stuff I’ve read. There is surely a lot of far-fetched contriving going on out there. However, it certainly makes me suspicious of involvement of higher levels when the board acts the way it has acted. Sometimes smoke is just smoke, but occasionally, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Remember that the governor is an ex-officio member of the BOT, and this particular governor is the former attorney general of Pennsylvania. Feel free to add two and two and get five. But why would all this hasty action be taking place if everything was on the up-and-up? And when is someone going to start investigating The Second Mile, where potential money tie-ins exist.
Sara Ganim, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist at the Patriot News will publish the chronology of The Second Mile in the Sunday edition tomorrow. This Turkey would love to see her continue on the trail. Follow the money, Sara. Pretty please?
I’ve digressed into the shady world of Internet paranoia and The Second Mile. Back to the business at hand. My neuroses won’t be assuaged by a hasty vote of the BOT tomorrow. Nevertheless, let me reel myself in long enough to opine that the BOT will indeed rubber stamp the consent decree tomorrow. Whether that will be the end of the controversy, as Peetz wants, is doubtful.
After I wrote this, I found that Dan Myers had written an editorial for StateCollege.com that is worth reading.