Trustees gather in November 2011 after the decision was made to fire Joe Paterno.
If a lawsuit is forthcoming against the NCAA for its handling of the Penn State sanctions, one ally the potential plaintiffs won't have is Penn State—or its board of trustees.
If that sounds confusing, well, it is, and it reflects the fracturing of the Penn State community that has emerged in the wake of the NCAA's sanctions.
The consent decree that Penn State agreed to forbade appeals of the punishment. Yet requests for appeals to the NCAA's decision have come from the Paterno family, a group of Penn State trustees and a group of former Penn State lettermen. The NCAA has swiftly responded to each, saying the sanctions were not subject to appeal.
The group of trustees' appeal was intended to be a precursor to a lawsuit against the NCAA, but that lawsuit looks to be significantly undercut by the Penn State board of trustees' decision to go ahead and ratify the sanctions. Here's more from ESPN.com:
The Penn State University Board of Trustees will hold a special meeting Sunday and is expected to formally ratify the consent decree of sanctions agreed to last month by university president Rodney Erickson and the NCAA, "Outside the Lines" has learned.
Board chairwoman Karen Peetz called the meeting "so that there can be no misunderstanding as to where we as the board stand." ...
The resolution the board will consider states "the process followed by the (NCAA) was unfortunate and the punitive sanctions are difficult," and refers to the consent decree as "binding."
Indeed, the decree is binding. That's the whole point of it.
It's understandable that Peetz would want to ratify the sanctions and do so as soon as possible, since she was the only trustee involved in the negotiations with the NCAA that led to the consent decree.
But this isn't a matter of one trustee going rogue—that's the whole point of having over 20 of them and holding votes. And the vast majority of Penn State's trustees support the consent decree, because they know the only alternative is the death penalty.
Penn State had two choices—consent decree with massive sanctions or a four-year death penalty—and it chose the punishment that saved the football team. There is no "C" here—no "none of the above."
As noted after his press conference earlier on Thursday, Bill O'Brien is not a willing participant in this aspect of the Penn State sanctions. He doesn't talk to the board of trustees, he doesn't gauge community sentiment for the sake of reporters and he doesn't encourage or discourage any specific sentiment from Penn State fans. He is the football coach.
Yet his message resonates beyond football when he repeats that it's time to move forward. He and his players have accepted the sanctions as the framework they'll operate in for the next few years. It's noble, it's classy and it's wise—especially since he can't change the sanctions.
Moreover, since the various bodies filing appeals are similarly unable to affect the sanctions, it's time for them to move on too. And that's exactly what they're doing. It's time.
Lead image courtesy of centredaily.com.