Sen. George Mitchell issued his second quarterly report assessing Penn State’s progress under the Athletics Integrity Agreement on March 1, noting the university’s “steady progress in implementing the requirements of the AIA and the Freeh Report recommendations.”
Mitchell serves as independent third-party athletics officer, a position implemented by the AIA, which was reached under the NCAA consent decree that imposed sanctions on Penn State last summer.
Among other highlighted events, Mitchell said in his report that his team has met with Penn State head coaches and athletics administrators to oversee their roles as “Team Monitors.” He further outlined that his team has met with individuals from the Board of Trustees, University Faculty Senate and the administration on the topics of the AIA and the Freeh Report.
Mitchell noted that Penn State made the deadline for several requirements mandated under the AIA “with some limited exceptions,” such as the adoption of a code of conduct for intercollegiate athletics, the establishment of an athletics integrity council and the appointment of athletics integrity officer, among others.
Mitchell said Penn State’s request to be relieved of five Freeh recommendations has been granted, and 16 additional recommendations have been fulfilled since his last report. Forty recommendations remain in progress, he added.
The next quarterly report is set for release at the end of May. At that time, it is expected that more developments will be have been seen connected to the “anticipated selection of the new director of university ethics and compliance” and “the commencement of activities under the direction of the athletics integrity officer,” in addition to fulfilling the remaining Freeh recommendations, Mitchell said in the report.
University President Rodney Erickson released a statement expressing his gratitude on behalf of the university.
“We still have more to do, but we’re gratified that Sen. Mitchell and his team recognize all that we have done and that we are committed to continuing these efforts, in full compliance with the consent decree and the Athletics Integrity Agreement,” Erickson said in the statement.
Faculty Senate Chair Larry Backer said via email that he was "pleased to read the Mitchell Report and heartened by his team's assessment that Penn State is making good progress on reforms." He said the Mitchell team has served a vital role in helping Penn State "through the difficult and sometimes complicated process of reform," adding that this is now closer to completion.
"As we begin to tackle some of the more fundamental issues remaining, I am sure that the Mitchell team's integrity and presence will be most welcome in helping Penn State complete the formal process of reform and then to engage in the more difficult work of internalizing the formal changes that are being made," Backer said.
Mitchell said that the team will continue to reach out to Penn Staters.
“We will continue to reach out to, and make ourselves available to, Penn State’s many constituencies to help us better understand the institution and the context for any recommendations we may make with respect to the AIA,” Mitchell said in the report.
Trustee Alvin Clemens said the report reflects Penn State’s current progress, describing it as “terrific” and an area in which much time is invested.
While some people have been upset over the conclusions of the Freeh Report, he said the Mitchell report shows “we are way ahead of the game” in connection to its recommendations on governance.
“We’re not surprised to receive high marks; after all, our athletic programs have always had a lot of integrity,” said Helen Woodyard, member of Penn Staters Reforming the Board of Trustees.
University spokeswoman Lisa Powers could not be reached for a comment via email.
The full text of the report can be found on the website of Mitchell’s law firm, DLA Piper.