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January 12, 2015

Two Penn State trustees say NCAA settlement may be in works

University could be on brink of a deal with NCAA, but the trustees want to hear details first

HARRISBURG, Pa.  — Two Penn State trustees said Monday they have learned the university has proposed new settlement terms with the NCAA in a lawsuit related to the handling of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal and want their board chairman to tell them the details of it.

Trustees Anthony Lubrano and Al Lord, who were elected by alumni, released an email they sent to board chairman Keith Masser saying any such discussions should be shared with them and all other trustees.

"We do not know its terms but are naturally skeptical of a proposal designed by only those trustees complicit in the travesties of 2011, 2012 and 2013," Lubrano and Lord wrote. "As chair and vice chair during these periods, you should be particularly mindful of the real and perceived conflict potential your leadership decisions have."

Masser replied that they were making incorrect "suppositions" and that public airing of any possible litigation settlement could damage Penn State. He said that the board has a subcommittee that handles such legal matters.

"With respect specifically to the Corman v. NCAA litigation, you have previously been informed that any proposed settlement would be brought to the board for its approval," Masser said in a statement released to reporters.

The NCAA, college sports' governing body, declined to comment.

The NCAA and Penn State are co-defendants in a state court case brought by two high-ranking elected officials regarding a 2012 consent decree that imposed unprecedented penalties on the university after the Sandusky sex abuse scandal. Sandusky, a longtime assistant to former football coach Joe Paterno, was convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys, some on campus, and is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence but maintains his innocence.

The NCAA and Penn State signed the consent decree shortly after Sandusky's 2012 conviction. The decree imposed a four-year bowl ban on the university, reduced football scholarships, required the university to pay $60 million to fund anti-child-abuse measures and invalidated more than 100 of Paterno's wins.

A report commissioned by Penn State concluded Paterno and other high-ranking university administrators concealed key facts about Sandusky to avoid bad publicity, a finding disputed by many Penn State alumni and fans.

The lawsuit, by Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman and state Treasurer Rob McCord, began as an attempt to enforce a law requiring the consent decree's $60 million fine be spent entirely within Pennsylvania, but it's now focused on the legality of the consent decree. Trial is scheduled for next month.

The NCAA has said it's willing to keep the fine money within Pennsylvania and has reinstated the football scholarships. In September, it announced Penn State could resume post-season play, and the university won the Pinstripe Bowl last month.

A spokesman for McCord declined to comment on settlement discussions but said he would welcome a deal that brings a fair resolution for all involved. Corman said he has not agreed to any settlement or proposed resolution and was preparing for trial.

Lubrano also released an email he sent a week ago to Masser and other trustees. He said in the email that the board was unlikely to approve any deal that doesn't void the consent decree or that "suggests the NCAA had the authority to act." He said he was concerned the board may be asked to vote on the matter when the trustees meet Friday in State College.