The vocal, angry group of Penn State alumni that have called for the heads of the university’s leadership now wants full disclosure of every single email, phone call, letter, fax or contact with the NCAA over the sanctions.
Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship voiced their demand on Thursday, a day after the revelation of an email written by a fired NCAA investigator who said Penn State President Rodney Erickson “sold the school down the river” by agreeing to the sanctions. The investigator, Ameen Najjar, sent the email to a man who was the whistle-blower that started the NCAA’s probe into the University of Miami’s football program, and the email was an exhibit entered in an unrelated court case.
“In the spirit of transparency, we demand that our (b)oard of (t)rustees and President Erickson put all of their cards on the table,” said the group’s spokeswoman Maribeth Schmidt. “If the deal indeed went down the way Rodney Erickson has explained, then there should be nothing to hide.”
Penn State spokesman David La Torre said the university would not comment on the list of demands from group, which goes by the acronym PS4RS.
The group wants to see all the documentation Penn State had related to the sanctions and the consent decree that date as far back as November 2011. The group also wants documents regardless of their nature that are between university officials and Louis Freeh’s law firms, the NCAA, or the Alabama law firm of Gene Marsh, the lawyer Penn State retained for counsel on what was then thought to be possible NCAA punishment.
The group also wants phone records and a list of verbal communication between university officials and folks at the NCAA from as far back as November 2011.
The PS4RS group also blasted Penn State’s leaders for “recent doubletalk” in the way the sanctions came to be.
Erickson has said his back was against the wall when it came to accepting the sanctions. He is on the record saying his choice was accept the sanctions that included the $60 million fine, scholarship reductions and a four-year post-season bowl ban or be hit with the so-called death penalty.
NCAA President Mark Emmert confirmed Erickson’s account during an interview last summer with ESPN. Emmert said a group of NCAA presidents were eyeing up to a four-year period of no football for the Nittany Lions.
But after the sanctions were announced last summer, the chairman of the NCAA’s executive committee, Oregon State University President Ed Ray, said the death penalty was not an option. Ray told ESPN “there was never a threat made to anyone about suspension of play if the consent decree was not agreed to.”
The email from Najjar, the NCAA investigator, was written to Nevin Shapiro, the whistle-blower who was also a convicted felon, after Najjar had been fired by the NCAA from his job as its enforcement director. Najjar suggested Penn State “agreed to and self-imposed the penalties” and that the NCAA had no authority to punish the university the way it did.
La Torre, the Penn State spokesman, issued a statement that dismissed Najjar as someone who had nothing to do with the discussions between Penn State and the NCAA.
“Throughout all of this, Penn State President Rodney Erickson has been consistent in his account,” La Torre said Wednesday. “Faced with the very real threat of the death penalty, as expressly acknowledged by the NCAA in the consent decree, he was left with no choice but to sign the consent decree. It was one of the most difficult things he has had to do in his 36 years of service to Penn State University.”
The records the PS4RS group is demanding are not subject to the state Right-to-Know Law because Penn State is a state-related university. But Penn State has disclosed previously confidential documents in the past, such as the so-called “engagement letter” that outlined the investigation to be done by Freeh.
“Should we ultimately find that Penn State was complicit in the imposition of the sanctions, or that President Erickson misrepresented the events that led to the execution of the consent decree, then it is reasonable to conclude that the (b)oard of (t)rustees and administration have been dishonest with the Penn State community and have failed wholly and completely in their fiduciary responsibility to the (u)niversity,” the PS4RS group said.