Court documents show that the NCAA collaborated with supposedly independent investigators hired by Penn State to examine the school's management of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal, according to a report from ESPN's Outside the Lines.
After former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky's child sexual abuse came to light in November 2011, Penn State hired a firm -- led by former FBI head Louis Freeh -- to conduct an independent investigation of the school's culpability in the scandal. Documents obtained by ESPN show that the firm worked closely with the NCAA, with the two sides first meeting on Dec. 7, 2011, only three weeks after Penn State commissioned the independent investigation.
The report says that NCAA president Mark Emmert first requested to speak with Freeh on Nov. 30. The sides continued to correspond throughout the investigation and even after the Freeh Report was released.
On Dec. 28, 2011, for instance, the NCAA emailed the firm a list of questions regarding Penn State's football culture and the behavior of university officials who knew of Sandusky's actions, suggesting that the NCAA at least partially guided Freeh's investigation. According to ESPN's report, one of the questions was, "How has Penn State University exercised institutional control over the issues identified in and related to the Grand Jury Report? Were there procedures in place that were or were not followed?"
The NCAA gave Freeh's firm 32 questions, according to the report.
Pennsylvania state Sen. Jake Corman, who filed a lawsuit challenging the $60 million penalty levied by the NCAA against the school, told Outside the Lines that he was unsettled by the NCAA's communication with the independent investigation. He speculated that the two sides were closely collaborating with one another:
"Clearly the more we dig into this, the more troubling it gets," Corman told Outside the Lines. "There clearly is a significant amount of communication between Freeh and the NCAA that goes way beyond merely providing information. I'd call it coordination ... Clearly, Freeh went way past his mandate. He was the enforcement person for the NCAA. That's what it looks like. I don't know how you can look at it any other way. It's almost like the NCAA hired him to do their enforcement investigation on Penn State."
"At a minimum, it is inappropriate. At a maximum, these were two parties working together to get an outcome that was predetermined."
The Freeh Report found that Penn State leadership, including longtime football coach Joe Paterno, failed to take action despite intimate knowledge of Sandusky's abusive behavior. It also determined that Penn State officials concealed facts and violated federal law when they did not properly alert law enforcement to crimes committed by Sandusky. The report states that Paterno and other Penn State officials demonstrated "callous and shocking disregard for child victims."
Donald Remy, the NCAA's general counsel, denied wrongdoing in a statement to ESPN:
"I think the communications between the Freeh group and the NCAA were consistent with the NCAA's commitment to cooperate with the Freeh group and our commitment to monitor the progress of that investigation," Remy said. "In no way do those documents demonstrate the NCAA was doing anything beyond that."
Paterno was fired as Penn State football coach on Nov. 9, 2011, as scrutiny of his actions intensified.
Last week, internal emails came to light that showed the NCAA was uncertain of its own authority to punish Penn State.
After Sandusky, the former longtime Penn State assistant coach, was convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse in 2012, the NCAA enacted sanctions on the school that included the vacating of all wins from 1998 to 2011, scholarship restrictions, a postseason ban and a $60 million fine that would go towards programs to help prevent child abuse. The NCAA announced Penn State's punishment 11 days after Freeh's report was released.
Penn State's postseason ban was lifted in September, with the NCAA saying that the school's "significant progress toward ensuring its athletics department functions with integrity" had given the governing body cause to lift the penalty early. The NCAA also restored Penn State's full allotment of scholarships.
- Stanley Kay