A student-athlete advocacy group has asked the NCAA to lift all transfer restrictions for Penn State football players, allowing them to switch schools without penalty. The request comes in the wake of the school-funded Freeh Commission concluding that administrators and coaches helped conceal the Jerry Sandusky sexual molestation scandal.
The request would allow any Penn State player to become immediately eligible to play at any other program and still receive a full scholarship. It would also allow other schools to communicate with players about potential transfers. NCAA rules stipulate a player on scholarship who transfers must sit out one year before becoming eligible.
Citing "an apparent cover-up by Penn State officials" of Sandusky's crimes over a decade, Ramogi Huma, the president of the California-based National College Players Association, called for the NCAA to remember current student-athletes are innocent bystanders in this case.
"While Penn State coaches and administrators have been implicated in heinous activities, Penn State football players have done nothing wrong," Huma wrote in a letter to NCAA president Mark Emmert dated Tuesday.
Emmert said Monday on PBS that he's "never seen anything as egregious as this in terms of just overall conduct and behavior inside a university" and that in terms of potential punishment for the university he didn't want to take "anything off the table."
That includes a possible "Death Penalty," which would prohibit Penn State from fielding a team for a period of time. The school said Tuesday that it was in the process of responding to the NCAA about possible violations stemming from the Freeh report findings.
Huma suggested that one potential action would be lifting the NCAA's restrictive transfer policy. NCAA rules also prohibit a school from communicating with a potential transfer unless Penn State grants a release. A player's inability to test the waters stymies possible movement.
It's common for the NCAA to relax the prohibitions when schools are facing bans on post-season competition, among other situations.
"The actions of Penn State officials have already tarnished the experience of Penn State football players," Huma said. "Penn State officials should not be given the power to hold players' financial aid and athletic opportunities hostage."
In an interview Tuesday evening, Huma said he did not know if any Penn State players were interested in transferring, he just wanted them to have the option to do so without penalty.
"This has been something we have been advocating for a long time," Huma said of his organization's opposition to transfer rules. "Our position is a school should never be allowed to hold a player hostage, let alone a school whose action may warrant the death penalty.
"In light of President Emmert's comments, we want the transfer restrictions to be a consideration when he is handing down a punishment, if there is a punishment."
Huma said that while it may be difficult for a player to transfer on the eve of the season, each current member of the program should retain the right to leave without restriction at a later date.
"The president of Penn State is thinking about taking down the statue of Joe Paterno [the coach who the majority of these players signed to play for]," Huma said. "No one can blame a Penn State football player for wanting to list a different school on his resume the rest of his life."
Huma played linebacker at UCLA from 1995-99. He founded the NCPA in 1997 to argue for student-athlete rights after a teammate was suspended for receiving groceries he otherwise couldn't afford.
The NCPA has worked in recent years for improved health care for players, the use of new television revenue to make up for cost of living shortfalls and other issues to improve the experience for players.
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