STATE COLLEGE – A former U.S. senator brought in to monitor reforms being made at Penn State in response to the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal said Friday the university is “off to a very good start” in making changes under a deal with the NCAA.
George Mitchell’s first quarterly report as Penn State’s athletics integrity monitor noted there was a looming deadline to complete a set of reforms, including implementation of a college sports code of conduct, but he said he believes university officials are acting in good faith.
“The university’s efforts have resulted in tangible achievements,” Mitchell wrote. “Many formal policies have been revised or adopted, including policies to govern background checks for university employees, access to athletics and recreational facilities, protection of children involved in university-affiliated activities, and the duties to report possible child abuse.”
Mitchell, who served as a Democratic U.S. senator from Maine in the 1980s and ’90s, said more than 9,600 people already have been trained about legal duties to report suspected child abuse.
“There appears to be unanimity within the Penn State community that one outcome of this tragedy should be greater awareness of the prevalence of child abuse in society generally and the devotion of more university resources to prevent it where the university can play a role in doing so,” Mitchell wrote.
NCAA president Mark Emmert said he was “pleased” with Penn State’s progress.
“Penn State has taken the first important steps necessary to ensure a culture of athletics integrity, and we look forward to seeing continued progress as the (athletics integrity agreement) is fully implemented,” Emmert said in a statement.
Penn State president Rodney Erickson issued a separate statement saying the university was proud of the progress that has been made.
“While we recognize that there is much more to do, we’re happy that Sen. Mitchell and his team recognize all that we have done and we are committed to continuing these efforts, in full compliance with the consent decree and the athletics integrity agreement,” Erickson said.
Mitchell will keep tabs on the university’s actions for five years under a binding consent decree it made this summer with the Indianapolis-based NCAA and the Big Ten Conference following Sandusky’s conviction on charges he abused boys, some on Penn State’s campus.
Penn State agreed to pay $60 million and suffer a four-year ban on postseason play, among other things, but its football program avoided being suspended, the so-called death penalty.
Sandusky, the university’s former assistant football coach, was convicted of dozens of counts of child sexual abuse. The 68-year-old is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence but maintains he is innocent.
Three former university administrators, accused of covering up complaints about Sandusky’s behavior and lying to a grand jury that investigated the case, have been charged with perjury, obstruction and other offenses. The three men, former president Graham Spanier, former vice president Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley, who’s on leave while the final year of his contract runs out, have denied the allegations against them.