The National Collegiate Athletic Association is gradually restoring the football scholarships to Penn State University that had been stripped from the institution after the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.
Five additional initial scholarships will be brought back to the university’s football program at the beginning of the next academic season, increasing the amount of initial football scholarships to 20, while the amount of total football scholarships is projected to increase to 85 over the next few years.
“While there is more work to be done, Penn State has clearly demonstrated its commitment to restoring integrity in its athletics program,” George Mitchell, the independent Athletics Integrity Monitor for Penn State, said in a statement. “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.”
Penn State has completed the initial implementation of over 120 tasks outlined in the Athletics Integrity Agreement and has hired compliance and integrity officers to oversee the leadership of intercollegiate athletics, according to the NCAA.
“As a staff, we are especially pleased for our players, who have proven themselves to be a resilient group of young men who are able to look ahead, focus and overcome adversity,” head coach Bill O’Brien said in a statement. “Penn State has long been known for graduating its student-athletes and providing them with a world class education. The scholarship additions will allow us to provide more student-athletes with a tremendous opportunity to earn that degree and play football for Penn State.”
The university was slapped with a $60-million fine, a four-year ban from postseason play and a reduction in the number of football scholarships it could award in July, 2012, after Sandusky, a former assistant coach, was convicted of sexually assaulting young boys throughout his tenure at Penn State.
Division I universities can award a total of 85 football scholarships and are limited to granting 25 initial scholarships per year. This year, Penn State was allowed to award only 15, denying a possible 10 young prospects the chance to play in the once-revered football program.
“Think about those potential 10 athletes choosing a different school,” said Darren Heitner, a sports attorney and former collegiate sports advisor based in Miami, Fla. “The blue-chip prospects have multiple scholarship offers. It would be naïve to think a blue-chip prospect would decline those offers and go to a school limited in what they can [financially] offer.”
The restoration of scholarships at Penn State will have not only a short-term effect, but a long-term effect on the quality of the football program, Mr. Heitner added.