NCAA president Mark Emmert is demanding a response to key questions from Penn State's administration that could expose the athletic programs to severe sanctions, according a statement released Thursday.
Penn State president Rodney Erickson said at a press conference Thursday afternoon that he and the 32-member Board of Trustees at the university would soon be in position to respond to Emmert and the NCAA. Erickson said he received a letter from Emmert -- which the NCAA confirmed went to Erickson on Nov. 17, 2011 -- with specific questions the university must answer now that the results of its third-party investigation are known.
"Like everyone else, we are reviewing the final report for the first time today. As President Emmert wrote in his November 17 letter to Penn State President Rodney Erickson and reiterated this week, the university has four key questions, concerning compliance with institutional control and ethics policies, to which it now needs to respond," the NCAA statement read. "Penn State's response to the letter will inform our next steps, including whether or not to take further action. We expect Penn State's continued cooperation in our examination of these issues."
The primary matter for the NCAA is application of its own definition of a "lack of institutional control." If the NCAA can apply it to the alleged cover-up at Penn State, it could harshly penalize the football program and also hand down broad punishment across Penn State athletics.
Penn State's failure to act when presented opportunities to confront assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, from top administration to members of the footbal coaching staff including Joe Paterno, is critical to the NCAA review but bylaws don't contain specific language that would apply to this particular case.
In the school's favor is that former FBI director Louis Freeh said the university has fully cooperated with the Big Ten and NCAA, turning over pertinent details and all relevant findings from the eight-month long investigation concluded July 6.
Freeh said Thursday morning the investigation, which including 430 interviews and access to digitial communication, showed university president Graham Spanier, Paterno, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz concealed critical facts and when asked, said Paterno could have stopped Sandusky had he chosen to do so.
"The most powerful men at Penn State failed to take any steps for 14 years to protect the children who Sandusky victimized," Freeh said.
As part of the investigation, Freeh's team unearthed email correspondence that shows Paterno not only knew of the 1998 investigation into Sandusky which he Paterno previously denied, but also portrayed Paterno as the most powerful figure in the group, advising Curley to abort a plan to file a report detailing the 2001 crime witnesses by assistant coach Mike McQueary to authorities.