Penn State Trustee Speaks Out on Due Process

From Trustee Ryan McCombie
10 August 2012
To: The Pennsylvania State University Board of Trustees
As I noted during the Board meeting last Tuesday (August 7), my principal issue in this ongoing saga is the lack of fairness and due process that has been afforded the University and other parties, including persons completely innocent of any wrongdoing, at the hands of the NCAA. My focus in the protective notice of appeal that was filed, and in future proceedings that may be considered, will not be on the authority of President Erickson; rather, it will be on the unlawful and extortionate actions of the NCAA, and the “rush to judgment” that has occurred as a result. This Board should not become a part of this rush to judgment under the guise of attempting to put this matter behind us. So long as the full truth has yet to come out, and there has not been a fair and thorough adjudicative process, this institution will be unable to truly begin a healing process.
Everyone should understand that at the moment in time and under the circumstances that were presented to President Erickson, he faced truly draconian choices. Under the duress of the tyrannical and unbridled power of the NCAA – – power to impose sanctions and penalties not only on our University but an entire region of Pennsylvania – – President Erickson did what I believe most of us would have done. Standing before an almighty adversary with academic, economic and other lives at stake, bravado is seldom a good tactic. Our President knew that he could be criticized for his difficult decisions, but his responsibility was to protect and mitigate the damage that had been done to what he held dear and was responsible to defend. At that moment in time, I believe President Erickson acted with courage and self sacrifice.
It is however, the very imposition of these circumstances of unbridled power, lack of due process, and total lack of accountability by an organization which has acquired immense power, that I protest. By their own admission this was not a negotiation, it was a “cram down” intended to do grave damage to this University and its reputation.
When I see fear in the eyes and voices of University Presidents, Athletic Directors and coaches when discussing the NCAA, I know something has gone fundamentally wrong. No one should fear their government or governing body. The unchecked power of the NCAA and its ability to decree and impose penalties on its members, and by extension their communities, without due process or the rule of law – even their own – must be reviewed.
There have been a great many mistakes made in this Shakespearean tragedy, but it is culminating in the authority of an organization that has become too powerful and too willing to use that power well beyond its charter, by-laws or established precedent.
I have just had an opportunity to read the email by Joel Myers with his suggestions and proposals for moving forward on these issues. I fully support and endorse Mr. Myer’s recommendations and the reasons behind them. The NCAA’s consent decree, to which I take exception, criticizes this Board for failing to “perform its oversight duties” and for failing in its “duties to oversee the President and senior University officials.” We should not fall victim to these same fiduciary shortcomings now, simply because it will help take the attention off the NCAA or make it easier for them to deprive certain parties with their rights to have the decree reviewed by an independent appeals committee. To allow sufficient time for the full and deliberative review that Mr. Myers suggests, I will instruct my counsel to refrain from further prosecution of pending appeals or consideration of other legal actions. It is time to pause, reflect and be fully informed as a Board before casting further votes that will impact the present and future of this great University. Let’s not continue this rush to judgment and pursuit of closure for the sake of closure.
Ryan McCombie August 10, 2012

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