By Mike Dougherty and Oren Liebermann
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – The Penn State Board of Trustees held a conference call on Sunday evening to talk about the tough sanctions imposed on the school and football program after the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal. But they did not vote to appeal sanctions because the meeting was held over the phone.
Before the meeting officially started, members voiced displeasure with the way it was put together.
“The board doesn’t do anything official without voting because it’s a corporation,” said Trustee Joel Myers. “We have not accepted the Freeh report.”
“I don’t believe we can accept the Freeh report for the purpose of the consent decree imposed by the NCAA,” added Myers.
“A meeting must be in a meeting room. And frankly, if we can’t get good legal advice on a simple matter of what is a meeting and where to hold a meeting, how can we trust the legal advise for getting on the NCAA?” another person said.
The meeting continued anyway, mostly so trustees could hear statements from school officials about the process of accepting the consent decree without the board’s knowledge.
“The NCAA had said emphatically that any leak of these discussions by Penn State would take any deal off the table,” said President Rodney Erickson.
This would result in a multi-year ban on the football program. Erickson said he was within his legal right to sign that document, and that he did it in the school’s best interest.
The University’s General Counsel, Stephen Dunham, asserted Erickson’s right to sign the consent agreement, saying, “The consent decree is validly executed. It is binding on Penn State and the NCAA. And it needs no vote by the board.”
After the statements, each board member had a moment to speak.
“I want to publically state my whole-hearted support for President Erickson and his handling of the NCAA matter specifically,” one trustee said, and many echoed that sentiment.
But Anthony Lubrano, an outspoken trustee recently elected to the board, says, “I am deeply disappointed by the process by which Penn State agreed to the consent decree.”
Lubrano ripped the Freeh report. “The full board never accepted the findings of the Freeh report. With respect to the Freeh report, in fact, its findings are so inconsistent with reality that I find them to be intentionally inflammatory.”
Most trustees agreed that it is time to move forward and build Penn State’s future.