Senator George J. Mitchell and his law firm, DLA Piper LLP (US), announced that today he has delivered his second annual report as the independent athletics integrity monitor under the Athletics Integrity Agreement ("AIA") among The Pennsylvania State University, the National Collegiate Athletics Association, and the Big Ten Conference.
The report describes Penn State's efforts during the most recent 90-day period to fulfill its obligations under the AIA and the Consent Decree and serves as Senator Mitchell's second annual report of the University's progress in implementing the recommendations made in the July 2012 report by Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan LLP pursuant to his separate role as the external monitor designated pursuant to recommendation 8.2 of the Freeh Report.
"Through the second year of the Consent Decree, Penn State has not wavered in its commitment to fulfilling the requirements of the AIA and to implementing the recommendations made in the Freeh Report." Senator Mitchell said. "The initiatives undertaken in the first year have begun to take root as a result of Penn State's continuing focus on these reforms," Senator Mitchell continued. "Chief among the University's accomplishments has been the institution of a wholly new and comprehensive compliance program that places oversight of athletics compliance outside of the Athletics Department and ensures direct access to the University's senior leadership and Board of Trustees," Senator Mitchell noted. Penn State also made significant strides toward installing a new human resources information system, fostering an ethical culture, and enhancing security at athletics and recreational facilities.
During the most recent quarter, Penn State hired Sandy Barbour as athletic director. The University also trained "Covered Persons" as to their responsibilities with respect to athletics compliance and certified the Athletics Department's efforts to comply with the NCAA Constitution and Bylaws and Big Ten Handbook, including the principles of institutional control, responsibility, ethical conduct, and integrity. The Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Task Force that President Barron commissioned held its first meeting, and the University announced a plan to make 12 ethics-related, tenure-track appointments across a range of disciplines over the course of the next three years.
On the basis of the actions described in the second annual report, and in the three quarterly reports preceding it, "Penn State has continued to fully comply with the AIA and has continued its commitment to reform," Senator Mitchell said. "I am therefore once again recommending reductions in the Consent Decree's sanctions affecting student-athletes," Senator Mitchell explained. "First, I recommend that the NCAA restore Penn State's bowl eligibility for the 2014-15 football season. Second, I recommend that the NCAA restore Penn State's football grants-in-aid to the maximum number permitted under NCAA regulations for the 2015-16 football season," Senator Mitchell said. Lastly, the AIA set the term of the Monitorship at five years, but left open the opportunity to recommend that the term be shortened. Senator Mitchell added: "Should Penn State continue its current course of progress during this upcoming third year, I will in my next annual repot consider recommending that the NCAA and Big Ten conclude the Monitorship substantially earlier than scheduled." "Earlier today, I presented my report and recommendations to the Big Ten Conference and the NCAA executive committee and Division I board of directors. I am pleased that they accepted my report and adopted my recommendations," Senator Mitchell concluded.
The AIA implements provisions of the binding consent decree between the NCAA and Penn State on July 23, 2012. Senator Mitchell was named the independent athletics integrity monitor after the consent decree was finalized. The monitor performs an independent role and is not an agent of Penn State, the NCAA, or the Big Ten Conference. The monitor will provide quarterly written reports to Penn State, the NCAA, and the Big Ten Conference during his tenure.
Senator Mitchell is the chairman emeritus of DLA Piper, a global law firm with 4,200 lawyers located in more than 30 countries throughout the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East.