Will Rodney Erickson be remembered as the man who dismantled Penn State football or the one who saved the school from itself?
Time will tell, but it's a fact that Erickson was thrust into an incredibly difficult situation when he was named Graham Spanier's successor as school president this winter. Some Nittany Lions fans may never forgive him for taking down the Joe Paterno statue and agreeing to incredibly harsh NCAA sanctions. But Erickson also was given very little choice.
The Penn State president issued this statement in the wake of the NCAA sanctions announcement:
"The tragedy of child sexual abuse that occurred at our University altered the lives of innocent children. Today, as every day, our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the victims of Mr. [Jerry] Sandusky and all other victims of child abuse.
"Against this backdrop, Penn State accepts the penalties and corrective actions announced today by the NCAA. With today's announcement and the action it requires of us, the University takes a significant step forward. The NCAA ruling holds the University accountable for the failure of those in power to protect children and insists that all areas of the University community are held to the same high standards of honesty and integrity.
"The NCAA also mandates that Penn State become a national leader to help victims of child sexual assault and to promote awareness across our nation. Specifically, the University will pay $12 million a year for the next five years into a special endowment created to fund programs for the detection, prevention and treatment of child abuse. This total of $60 million can never reduce the pain suffered by victims, but will help provide them hope and healing.
"The NCAA penalty will also affect the football program. There is a four-year ban on all postseason games, including bowl games and the Big Ten championship game, and a future reduction in the number of football scholarships that can be granted. We are grateful that the current student-athletes are not prevented from participation because of the failures of leadership that occurred. Additionally the NCAA has vacated all wins of Penn State football from 1998-2011.
"We also welcome the Athletics Integrity Agreement and the third-party monitor, who will be drilling into compliance and culture issues in intercollegiate athletics, in conjunction with the recommendations of the Freeh report. Lastly a probationary period of five years will be imposed.
"It is important to know we are entering a new chapter at Penn State and making necessary changes. We must create a culture in which people are not afraid to speak up, management is not compartmentalized, all are expected to demonstrate the highest ethical standards, and the operating philosophy is open, collegial, and collaborative.
"Since receiving Judge [Louis] Freeh's preliminary recommendations in January, the University has instituted several reforms. Today we accept the terms of the consent decree imposed by the NCAA. As Penn State embarks upon change and progress, this announcement helps to further define our course. It is with this compass that we will strive for a better tomorrow.
"Penn State will move forward with a renewed sense of commitment to excellence and integrity in all aspects of our University. We continue to recognize the important role that intercollegiate athletics provides for our student athletes and the wider University community as we strive to appropriately balance academic and athletic accomplishments. Penn State will continue to be a world-class educational institution of which our students, faculty, staff and alumni can be justifiably proud."