By a vote of 19-8, Penn State University trustees Wednesday morning approved a litigation settlement proposal promising the university will “remain committed to full compliance with the Consent Decree” signed with the NCAA in 2012, including a $60 million payment, management reforms and football program sanctions, in the wake of the school’s sex abuse scandal.
The proposed settlement approved by the board majority, if accepted in court, could be used to resolve state and federal lawsuits over the decree, requiring among other steps that the $60 million be spent in Pennsylvania “to assist victims of child sexual abuse and prevent future child sexual abuse.”
The eight elected alumni trustees who voted all opposed the resolution, splitting from members selected by state government, business and farm groups, who backed the proposal. Trustees divided over whether the proposed settlement resolution went too far in accepting the NCAA sanctions, which the alumni trustees say are based on unproven attacks on former University President Graham Spanier, the late football coach Joe Paterno, and university practices and pro-sports culture as detailed in the scathing Freeh Report, which blamed them for failing to stop ex-assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky from abusing children on college property.
University leaders had agreed to the decree, payment, reforms and sanctions. But in April a Commonwealth Court ruling questioned the decree’s validity under state law, and urged the board to review the deal in hopes of settling legal challenges.
In annual elections since it was signed, alumni have voted out trustees who supported the decree and replaced them with critics.