According to an official news release from Penn State University, the school has announced settlement agreements with 26 of the victims in the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal that came to light in late 2011.
Twenty-three of settlements are signed in full, and the other three have been agreed to in principle. Together they aggregate a total of $59.7 million to be paid out by the university.
Keith Masser, chair of the Board of Trustees at Penn State, made the following statement as part of the announcement:
The Board of Trustees has had as one of its primary objectives to reach settlements in a way that is fair and respects the privacy of the individuals involved. This is another important milestone in accomplishing that goal. I would like to thank the board’s Legal and Compliance Committee, as well as its Legal Subcommittee for its leadership throughout this process.
University President Rodney Erickson followed up with a statement of his own:
We hope this is another step forward in the healing process for those hurt by Mr. Sandusky, and another step forward for Penn State. We cannot undo what has been done, but we can and must do everything possible to learn from this and ensure it never happens again at Penn State.
Thirty-two victims claim to have endured abuse from Sandusky when he was a Penn State employee, leaving six cases unsettled after Monday's announcement. According to the release, the school has rejected some of those claims for being "without merit" and is working with others to agree on settlement terms in the future.
NCAA President Mark Emmert levied historic sanctions on the Penn State program after the Sandusky scandal came to light, originally including a $60 million fine, a four-year bowl ban and a four-year cap at 65 scholarships (as opposed to the normal 85) starting in 2014.
At the urging of former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, the NCAA reduced those penalties this past September and put a plan in place to begin restoring scholarships for the program. Said Mitchell at the time, according to an NCAA release:
While there is more work to be done, Penn State has clearly demonstrated its commitment to restoring integrity in its athletics program. 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.
The announcement of these 26 settlements does not put an end to this ugly saga, but it does represent a big step in the right direction for the embattled university.
After Penn State suffered a 63-14 beating at the hands of Ohio State on Saturday, this is an important bit of good news in Happy Valley and a reminder that the program is focused on making progress both on and off the field.