STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell of Maine will oversee Penn State’s compliance with NCAA sanctions as the independent athletics integrity monitor at the university, college sports’ governing body announced Wednesday.
The NCAA said Mitchell had a five-year appointment that began immediately. He will receive “broad access” to campus, personnel and records and make any recommendations necessary for Penn State to comply with its requirements and “enhance adherence to NCAA and Big Ten (Conference) principles, values, ethics and rules,” the NCAA said in a statement.
The NCAA last week levied strict sanctions against the school for the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, including a four-year postseason ban, significant scholarship reductions and a $60 million fine.
Mitchell will also evaluate Penn State’s compliance with an athletics integrity agreement with the NCAA and Big Ten. Penn State is expected to sign the agreement in mid-August, after it is reviewed by Mitchell.
“I enter this engagement mindful of the fact that this tragedy has deeply affected many lives, starting, of course, with the victims and their families,” Mitchell said. “I will do my best to fulfill my independent oversight responsibilities to help ensure that Penn State University moves promptly and decisively to achieve the very high level of trust and integrity needed to fulfill its important mission to those it serves.”
Sandusky, a retired defensive coordinator, is awaiting sentencing after being found guilty in June of 45 criminal counts involving 10 boys, both on and off campus. The school’s internal investigation, led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, said that the late Joe Paterno and three other school officials concealed allegations — conclusions firmly denied by Paterno and the officials. Penn State then turned over Freeh’s report to the NCAA, which handed down its landmark sanctions on July 23.
Mitchell has had a distinguished career as a statesman, including Independent Chairman of the Northern Ireland Peace Talks in the late 1990s, and two years as U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace ending in May 2011.
University spokesman Dave La Torre said the school looked forward to working with Mitchell, who led the Major League Baseball’s investigation in 2007 into the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
La Torre cited in part Mitchell’s “deep understanding” of the sports industry. He said school officials hoped to meet with him soon “to discuss how we will work together.”
Mitchell is expected to file quarterly progress reports for the NCAA, the Big Ten and Penn State trustees. He will get help from his law firm, DLA Piper, and can employ other personnel as needed, the NCAA said.
The NCAA declined to disclose Mitchell’s compensation, which was being funded by Penn State. When asked, La Torre said the school would answer no further questions Wednesday.
As of May 31, Penn State had spent more than $14.4 million for legal fees, consultants, public relations and other expenses in connection with the Sandusky scandal.