At the end of July, the Penn State Board of Trustees blustered about the way Rodney Erickson circumvented the voting processes of the Board to give his consent to the NCAA's bargained sanctions. The Board, at that time, fell in line because of the four-year death penalty threat that the NCAA held over the school's head.
Well, as ESPN reports, the Penn State Board of Trustees are apparently not taking that path of least resistance, as they appeared to do earlier. The Board is lining up for a fight. They filed an appeal Monday afternoon with the NCAA, stating:
The consent decree university president Rodney Erickson signed with the NCAA agreeing to the sanctions is "null and void" because Erickson "lacked the legal authority" to enter into such an agreement without the board's approval.
Big moves for the Board of Trustees. Unlike the Paterno family appeal that is rooted in fixing the legacy of the now disgraced head coach, this appeal by the Board of Trustees is rooted in their original fiery anger at Rodney Erickson and the NCAA. The Standing Order IV of the Board of Trustees was the nexus of the June Board of Trustees meeting to discuss Erickson's handling of the NCAA.
According to provision 2-e of Standing Order IV, the following actions must be approved by the Board: Authorization to borrow money; authorization of persons to sign checks, contracts, legal documents, and other obligations, and to endorse, sell or assign securities.
The Board of Trustees is in for a fight. Not just legally, as the NCAA has already stated they will not hear the appeal, but also in the public eye. The nation had a tremendous bloodlust to see Penn State football punished. Now, as the Board saddles up to fight the NCAA, they are also going to have to fight the general public.
A general public that was happy to see the NCAA circumvent their rules in order to punish Penn State. A general public that believed the NCAA was a gang of do-gooders because they rushed to slam the Penn State program. A general public that somehow views wanting the NCAA to stay out of real-world problems as an endorsement of child abuse. A general public that yells loud and isn't much for rationally approaching situations.
Right now, the Board of Trustees appears to be in it for the long haul. This isn't just an NCAA issue, as ESPN stated in their report:
Trustees and a person with first-hand knowledge of the discussions said the move is a precursor to a federal lawsuit asking a judge to invalidate the sanctions, because trustees expect the NCAA to reject the appeal.
That's easy to say now, but when things get heavy, when they get ugly, the Board of Trustees is going to have to have their boots laced up and be prepared to wade through the muck. As word of the appeal gets out, the public is going to battle it. The Board of Trustees will have a fight on their hands, a battle on two fronts—both publicly and with the legal system.