The NCAA has decided to lessen the impact of the scholarship reductions issued on Penn State's football team last July in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.
The Nittany Lions will be back to 85 scholarships by 2016.
The original sanctions called for Penn State to reduce its allotment of scholarships to 65 by the start of the 2014 season, with no more than 15 going to any class until 2016. The restoration, which will take effect for the next academic year (2014-15), means the Nittany Lions will be able to allot 20 scholarships for the 2014-15 class and 25 the following year. The total number of allowed scholarships will go from 75 for 2014-15, 80 in 2015-16 and 85 in 2016-17.
In a release on its website, the NCAA said its executive committee is restoring the scholarships "due to Penn State University’s continued progress toward ensuring athletics integrity." The changes were endorsed by the Division I Board of Directors and recommended by George Mitchell, the former U.S. senator who serves as the recently appointed "Independent Athletics Integrity Monitor" for Penn State.
"While there is more work to be done, Penn State has clearly demonstrated its commitment to restoring integrity in its athletics program,” said Mitchell in a statement. “The university has substantially completed the initial implementation of all the Freeh Report recommendations and its obligations to the Athletics Integrity Agreement, so relief from the scholarship reductions is warranted and deserved.”
The other parts of the sanctions, including the $60 million fine and four-year postseason ban, will remain in effect. However, the executive committee may consider additional mitigation of the postseason ban in the future depending upon Penn State’s continued progress, said the statement.
“Providing relief from the scholarship restrictions will give more student-athletes an opportunity to attend Penn State on athletics scholarship while also creating an incentive for the university to continue its progress under new leadership after President (Rodney) Erickson’s impending departure,” said Mitchell in the statement.
Statements from O'Brien, Joyner, Erickson
O'Brien: "Today's announcement by the NCAA is tremendous news. As a staff, we are especially pleased for our players, who have proven themselves to be a resilient group of young men who are able to look ahead, focus and overcome adversity. Penn State has long been known for graduating its student-athletes and providing them with a world class education. The scholarship additions will allow us to provide more student-athletes with a tremendous opportunity to earn that degree and play football for Penn State."
Erickson: "The action taken today by the NCAA, following its review of the positive report issued this month by Sen. George Mitchell, recognizes the significant efforts over the past year to make Penn State a safer, stronger institution. This news is certainly welcome to our University community, particularly the student athletes who may want to attend Penn State and will now have the means to do so. As we promised throughout this process, we are committed to continuing to improve all of our policies, procedures and actions."
Joyner: "I am very happy for Coach O'Brien, the football coaches and staff and the players; especially pleased for our current and future student-athletes, who are the most important reason why we love working in intercollegiate athletics. We will continue to work hard within the Athletics Integrity Agreement to fully comply and to achieve excellence in everything we do at Penn State."