Freeh Report is Insufficient to Justify NCAA Punishment

by Travis Normand

When I quote an entire article in one of my posts, I always feel as if I should start by saying, “I hate doing this.” However, in this case, there are simply far too many things in the article that I would like to highlight.

As you will see below, The Chronicle of Higher Education released an article this past week with some interesting information and comments on the Freeh Report.  Please read the following quote[s] from the article and then see my bulleted comments after.  [Emphasis added]

Freeh Group Member Criticizes NCAA’s Use of Investigative Report
July 27, 2012
By Brad Wolverton
[Updated (7/27/2012, 6:31 p.m.) with comment from the Freeh Group.]

A member of the team that produced [the Freeh Report] . . . believes that the NCAA’s use of that document was insufficient to justify the punishment it handed the university this week.

“That document was not meant to be used as the sole piece, or the large piece, of the NCAA’s decision making,” a source familiar with the investigation told The Chronicle on Thursday. “It was meant to be a mechanism to help Penn State move forward. To be used otherwise creates an obstacle to the institution changing.” . . .

A confidentiality agreement forbids members of Mr. Freeh’s group [The Group that created the Freeh Report] to speak publicly about the investigation. Late Friday, a spokesperson for the group released the following statement: “The Freeh Group emphatically stated that no member of its investigative team spoke to The Chronicle of Higher Education for its story. The Freeh Group has no comment on the NCAA’s use of the report.”

Mark Emmert, the NCAA’s president, repeatedly referred to the Freeh document during his news conference on Monday announcing the penalties, which included a $60-million fine, a four-year ban on bowl-game participation, and significant reductions in scholarships.

The report, Mr. Emmert said, was “vastly more involved and thorough than any investigation we’ve ever conducted.” . . . Given Penn State’s acceptance of the findings, Mr. Emmert and other NCAA leaders set aside a possible investigation of their own and, in less than 10 days, decided on Penn State’s punishment.

. . . [A]llowing the Freeh report to form the basis for such a heavy penalty was not enough, said the person close to Mr. Freeh’s group. “The Freeh team reviewed how Penn State operated, not how they worked within the NCAA’s system,” this person said. “The NCAA’s job is to investigate whether Penn State broke its rules and whether it gained a competitive advantage in doing so.”

The NCAA’s decision, this person said, could have a lasting negative impact on the university—and not just in football.

“In using this report largely as the basis for their decision, the NCAA could hurt Penn State’s enrollment, recruiting, and outside relationships and partnerships,” the source said. “If you don’t attract good faculty and research dollars, your institution has no stature.”

******

Last November, Mr. Emmert posed a series of questions in a letter to Rodney A. Erickson, Penn State’s interim president, signaling what looked like a separate inquiry into the university.

“That letter leads any reasonable person to think that the NCAA was starting their own investigation,” said the person with knowledge of Mr. Freeh’s team. “If the NCAA wasn’t going to investigate, they would have said, ‘This is a law-enforcement matter.'”

Throughout the eight-month inquiry, NCAA leaders received regular updates about the Freeh investigators’ findings. That should have clarified the “narrow focus” of the Freeh group’s work, the source said, which was to provide the facts about Penn State’s leaders, giving a sense of how decisions were made and how the university was governed.

[Former PSU President] Spanier was the only one [of the four PSU leaders implicated by the report]. . . to be interviewed by the Freeh investigators, and [interview] that was just days before the report was released. (Mr. Curley and Mr. Schultz, facing charges of perjury and failing to report child abuse, did not answer questions for the report.)

Because of those and other limitations, some of the Freeh team’s findings were circumstantial. “The report is critical, but nothing is black and white,” The Chronicle’s source said. “No investigation can totally answer all the questions everyone has.”

The Freeh report also could have explored more about the various coaches who knew about Mr. Sandusky’s showering with boys—an area in which the NCAA obviously should have followed up, said the person close to the Freeh investigation.

“The NCAA took this report and ran with it without further exploration,” this person said. “If you really wanted to show there was a nexus to cover up, interview the coaches.  See their knowledge and culpability and how far this went.” . . . “The sanctions against Penn State were really overwhelming, and no one imagined the report being used to do that,” this person [the source] said. “People thought it would help others draw conclusions about what happened and provide a guide for leaders to be able to identify minefields and navigate through them.”

“Instead, Emmert took the report and used Penn State’s own resources to do them in,” the person said. . . .

Click HERE to read this article in its entirety at The Chronicle of Higher Education

I think the source for the article is spot-on.  The essence of what the source was trying to say was that the NCAA should have done its own investigation because the Freeh Report is insufficient for that purpose.

One of the best points made by the source was towards the end of the article when he/she said:

The Freeh report also could have explored more about the various coaches who knew about Mr. Sandusky’s showering with boys—an area in which the NCAA obviously should have followed up, said the person close to the Freeh investigation.

“The NCAA took this report and ran with it without further exploration,” this person said. “If you really wanted to show there was a nexus to cover up, interview the coaches.  See their knowledge and culpability and how far this went.” . . .

After all, if their truly was a cover up (as the Freeh Report and other major media outlets have assumed), isn’t it in everyone’s interest to find out who all was involved?  IF there were other coaches who knew about Sandusky’s actions, but failed to say anything, wouldn’t we want to know that?  Would it have hurt the NCAA to take the time to interview other football coaches about what they knew?  Why did the NCAA have to act so quickly, before completing all possible fact-finding?

The bottom line is that If the NCAA was truly interested in finding the truth, and punishing the wrong-doers, they would have used the Freeh Report to supplement their own investigation.

The counter-argument to my point of view is that Penn State agreed to the sanctions it received and thus the NCAA was justified in its action.   However, I am not sure Penn State really had a choice.  Penn State was told to either accept the penalties or face a multi-year death penalty.  What kind of choice is that?  If someone puts a gun to your head and asks, “Your money or your life?” — you hand them your wallet.  I’m not sure Penn State didn’t just give their wallet to the man with the gun.

Some have criticized the NCAA President Emmert for doing nothing more than grabbing the spotlight during Penn State’s time of crisis.  If the NCAA, and its president, are not willing to do their due diligence and complete the investigation, how can we expect them to issue a just punishment?

In truth, the most upsetting part of this whole story comes from President Emmert’s own mouth when he said that the Freeh Report was “vastly more involved and thorough than any investigation we’ve [the NCAA] ever conducted.”  Isn’t this like an admission of incompetency on the part of the NCAA?  The Freeh Report has been heavily criticized, referred to as incomplete and full of assumptions.  If such a controversial report is more thorough than any investigation ever made by the NCAA, then it is time we take a long and hard look at how the NCAA conducts its investigations.  I would like to think that the NCAA could do better than the Freeh Report, after all, its their job.

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