It was a ROUGH weekend for the Big Ten, going a dismal 8-5 and losing some high profile games. But that's not the big news this week. Overshadowed by the Ray Rice Situation in the NFL, the announcement that Penn State's Bowl Ban was lifted and that all scholarships will be reinstated for next season broke with very little fan-fare.
After instituting the harsh penalties against the football program, Former Senator George Mitchell was named Integrity Monitor and, for five years, is in charge of monitoring the institution and reporting on their progress in changing the culture that led officials to cover up child abuse. He gives Penn State high praise for following the recommendations of the Freeh report and making an immediate impact on their culture.
Leadership Changes: New president Eric Barron and new athletic director Sandy Barbour represent a clear break with the past and movement forward with a new culture.
Compliance Program: A new compliance program is being implemented that puts the oversight of athletics outside of the Athletics department to ensure that University leaders and the Board of Trustees are aware of everything going on.
Office of Ethics and Compliance: the new OEC, lead by Regis Becker, is providing oversight, guidance and training on all Penn State campuses, not just for the athletic departments. Athletics Integrity Officer Julie Del Giorno and Associate Athletic Director for compliance Matt Stohlberg both report directly to Becker, thus avoiding any conflicts of interest. Del Giorno monitors athletes, coaches and others and has investigated 11 compliance complaints during the past year. Four have been closed while seven remain under investigation. Mitchell also noted that an increased in the number of violations being reported by Penn State shows the improvement in their process and bodes well for their efforts to follow NCAA and Big Ten rules.
After receiving Mitchell's report and his recommendation that Penn State's bowl ban be lifted and scholarships returned, the NCAA board of directors agreed and immediately announced the change in the sanctions.
"Penn State has made remarkable progress over the past year," said South Carolina president Harris Pastides, a member of the NCAA's board of directors. "The board members and I believe the executive committee's decision is the right one. It allows both the university and the association to continue to move toward a common goal of ensuring that educating, nurturing and protecting young people is a top priority."
Now, as a fan of college football and especially the B1G, this is great news. I like the fact that the university is taking what happened seriously, sharing in the responsibility for the cover-up and making changes. And I like the fact that the Big Ten gets back a school that has a really good football team for Bowl Season. And most especially I love the fact that QB Christian Hackenberg will get some positive attention this season and make a strong run for the Heisman. In fact, I haven't heard anyone complain about the sanction being lifted