One of the leading advocates for student-athlete rights wants Penn State football players to have the freedom of transferring immediately.
Ramogi Huma, a former UCLA linebacker and president of the National College Players Association, wrote a letter to NCAA President Mark Emmert requesting Penn State players and incoming freshmen receive the option of transferring without punishment.
Football players transferring within Division I must be released from their scholarships and sit out a season before gaining eligibility at a new school under NCAA rules. Huma wants the NCAA to waive the restriction because of the circumstances surrounding the Penn State case.
Huma wrote the letter after watching Emmert's interview on PBS's "Tavis Smiley" show. Emmert said he's exploring multiple options, including the death penalty, in the Penn State case. The comments were Emmert's strongest since the release of the Freeh report, a 267-page independent investigation criticizing the role of multiple University leaders, including athletic director Tim Curley and former football coach Joe Paterno, in the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal and cover-up.
"We're not advocating for any football players to leave," Huma said in a telephone interview Wednesday with the Centre Daily Times. "We're just saying that if football players are thinking about leaving, the NCAA should be making public statements about what happens to them. If they wish to leave, it shouldn't be a guessing game, it shouldn't be a drum roll. They deserve a commitment from the NCAA."
Penn State hasn't lost any existing players because of the scandal, although six high school seniors who orally committed to the Nittany Lions signed National Letters of Intent with other major programs. Huma lauded the resolve of Penn State's current players.
"I couldn't imagine what they are going through," he said. "I shake my head when each of these stories comes out. These players put their heart and soul into it, their sweat and blood, and they are doing everything asked of them. They haven't done anything wrong and they have handled it as well as could be expected."
Huma said the Penn State case works into his the NCPA's broader goal of easing transfer restrictions in high-profile sports. Football, basketball, baseball and men's hockey transfers must sit out one year before becoming eligible at a new school. No one-year waiting period exists in other sports.
"We want players in all sports to be able to transfer one time without punishment," he said.
Huma founded the NCPA in 1995 after watching the NCAA suspend All-American teammate Donnie Edwards for accepting groceries when his scholarship money ran out at the end of the month. More than 17,000 current and former Division I athletes, including some at Penn State, have joined the NCPA.
Huma said he hasn't recently spoken with any current Penn State football players.
"At this point they are powerless," he said. "It's logical for them to be worried. If they aren't worried about what the NCAA might do, it's a testament to them doing what they should be doing and getting better for the upcoming season.
"As an outsider and not being there in the trenches, I worry for them. And I worry for athletes at other programs that have been at schools that have faced punishments for more traditional things."
Penn State players maintained before last week's Life For Life charity fundraiser that the possibility of NCAA sanctions aren't altering their focus.
"It's out of our hands right now," running back Silas Redd said. "All we can do is prepare for the season."