116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CHICAGO - Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said the league was prepared to adopt stronger punishment on Penn State had the NCAA not enact unprecedented penalties earlier this week.
“But given the NCAA penalties and the actions taken by the institution, we felt that ours were targeted and appropriate,” Delany said Thursday at Big Ten Media Days.
“You can debate (the sanctions) all you want, but in my view (the NCAA) had moral authority and responsibility to act as did the Big Ten.”
Penn State was penalized for a leadership-led cover-up, which was outlined in the school-commissioned Freeh Report. Former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky sexually abused children repeatedly on the Penn State campus, and former school officials failed to report incidents, stonewalled investigators allegedly lied under oath in grand jury testimony. Former athletic director Tim Curley and former school vice president Gary Schultz are charged with perjury.
The NCAA slapped Penn State with a four-year bowl ban, a $60 million fine, five years of probation and reduced scholarships through 2018. The league will withhold four years of bowl revenue, disallow Penn State for competing for the Big Ten title for four years and formally censured the university.
Perhaps the most controversial penalty adopted by the NCAA was allowing current Penn State football players to immediately transfer - with no permission required - to other schools, including within the conference. Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said the school is considering one player, and Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz called Penn State Coach Bill O'Brien directly to inform him of the recruitment.
Other schools, like Illinois, sent Penn State a list of names and flew eight assistants to State College for a recruiting trip. New Illinois Coach Tim Beckman said he briefly spoke with O'Brien about the recruitment, while O'Brien flat-out told reporters “No” when asked if the two had spoken.
“We were in State College, but we did not go on campus,” Beckman said. “We went to two establishments outside campus and called some individuals and if they wanted to come by, it was their opportunity to come by.”
Delany is concerned about possible resentment among the schools and told the coaches any recruitment communication must go through athletic directors.
“We are trying to put an overlay on this that allows the athlete as much opportunity as the rules allow,” Delany said. “That allows for collegial relationships between our schools to be done in the right way.”
Penn State's situation dominated all discussion at media days, whether it was the recruitment issue or the black eye the scandal delivered to the league's reputation. Delany has sought more authority to step in during escalating situations - like the chaotic episode at Penn State last November - but was rebuffed by the league's presidents.
“My question at that juncture was with a president (Graham Spanier) who had either resigned or been terminated, with an athletic director (Curley) who had been indicted and a football coach (Joe Paterno) that was telling the board of trustees that they should get on with other business,” Delany said Thursday at Big Ten Media Days. “What does this say to the NCAA, to the Big Ten or anybody else who was interested, about where we were at that moment in time?
“It was obvious to me that one area that the conference ought to consider with very close oversight and scrutiny is its power to act by the commissioner in an emergency situation - could be suspension or termination - subject to immediate review as soon as the board of directors could get together.”
Opinions vary about the NCAA's jurisdiction and the fairness of Penn State's sanctions, Delany acknowledges. O'Brien credited current Penn State President Rodney Erickson for accepting the NCAA's terms and trying to move forward as a university.
“The sanctions are what they are,” O'Brien said. “It's time to get up and get going, which we started doing Monday at 10 a.m. I think over the last six months (Erickson has) had to make some very difficult decisions, and he's made them.
“I stand by the decisions that they (Erickson and athletic director Dave Joyner) make.”