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NCAA will reduce scholarship sanctions on Penn State's football program

Beaver Stadium Beginning in the 2014-15 academic year, the NCAA will return five scholarships to the Nittany Lions. (Simon Bruty/SI)

The NCAA will gradually restore scholarships to Penn State that were taken away last July as part of the organization's unprecedented sanctions against the university, the NCAA announced on Tuesday.

Beginning in the 2014-15 academic year, the NCAA will restore five additional initial scholarships to the Nittany Lions football team -- which currently has only 15 initial scholarships -- and that amount will continue to increase in subsequent years. The reductions to the sanctions were endorsed by the Division I Board of Directors and were based on the recommendation of George Mitchell, the former U.S. senator and the independent athletics integrity monitor for the school.

In a release, Mitchell said that Penn State's efforts to change the culture within the athletic department prompted the decision.

“While there is more work to be done, Penn State has clearly demonstrated its commitment to restoring integrity in its athletics program,” said Mitchell. “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.”

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“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 Erickson’s impending departure,” said Mitchell.

The Nittany Lions will have 20 initial scholarships and 75 total scholarships in 2013-14; 25 initial scholarships and 80 total scholarships in '15-16; and 25 initial scholarships and 85 total scholarships in both '16-17 and '17-18. Full allocation is 25 initial and 85 total scholarships.

In July 2012, the NCAA hit Penn State with a $60 million fine, a four-year postseason ban and a reduction of 10 initial and 20 total scholarships as a result of the "'football-first' culture that ultimately enabled serial child abuse to occur." The school was also forced to vacate all wins from 1998-2011.

Last October, former Nittany Lions assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison for the sexual abuse of 10 boys.

On Tuesday, the NCAA confirmed that the remaining sanctions would remain in effect, but that the Executive Committee "may consider additional mitigation of the postseason ban in the future depending upon Penn State’s continued progress." The NCAA release explained that the university had made great strides in revamping its oversight.

Penn State has substantially completed the initial implementation of over 120 tasks outlined in the Athletics Integrity Agreement. They have hired their first Chief Compliance Officer and their first Athletics Integrity Officer. Penn State also has taken steps to ensure that there is appropriate oversight of intercollegiate athletics at the highest levels of the University’s leadership.

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