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Mitchell hired as watchdog over Penn State athletics

Former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, who led investigations into steroid issues in Major League Baseball, has been named an independent monitor for Penn State's athletics program.

The move, announced by the NCAA Wednesday, will mean Mitchell will evaluate Penn State's compliance with NCAA sanctions in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

Mitchell, who will serve a five-year appointment, will have broad access to the campus, personnel and records and can make any recommendations he believes are necessary for the university to comply with all of its requirements and enhance adherence to NCAA and Big Ten principles, values, ethics and rules, according to the NCAA.

"I enter this engagement mindful of the fact that this tragedy has deeply affected many lives, starting, of course, with the victims and their families," Mitchell said. "I will do my best to fulfill my independent oversight responsibilities to help ensure that Penn State University moves promptly and decisively to achieve the very high level of trust and integrity needed to fulfill its important mission to those it serves."

A four-year postseason ban, five years probation and a vacation of all wins dating to 1998 were among the significant penalties levied last month by the NCAA.

The university was punished for its collective failure to report Sandusky, a former assistant under head coach Joe Paterno, recently convicted on 45 counts of sexual abuse against 10 boys over a 15-year period, to the proper authorities.

"Senator Mitchell has impeccable credentials as a fair and experienced arbitrator nationally and globally," NCAA president Mark Emmert said. "He will bring the benefit of his vast experience and knowledge to the execution of the agreement."

Penn State is expected to sign the agreement in the middle of this month, once Mitchell has reviewed the language.

The NCAA said Mitchell will prepare quarterly progress reports for the NCAA, the Big Ten and Penn State's board of trustees.

Mitchell also served as chairman of an investigative commission that alleged impropriety in the bidding process for the 2002 Winter Olympics.