CHICAGO — Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said Monday that the conference embraced Penn State following the 2012 sanctions, helped negotiate their early reductions and rooted for the program to rebuild itself on and off the field.
At the Big Ten media days, Delany called the Jerry Sandusky scandal and its aftermath “maybe the most difficult set of circumstances I’ve ever been asked to participate in” but praised the university for how it handled the post-sanctions era.
“I can look anybody in the eye and salute Penn State for the progress they’ve made, the seriousness with which they’ve treated the issue,” Delany said.
The NCAA announced its sanctions, which included scholarship reductions, a four-year bowl ban and a $60 million fine, against Penn State on July 23, 2012. The Big Ten also banned Penn State from competing in the conference championship game and donated the program’s bowl revenue to charity.
At the time, there was discussion whether the Big Ten would retain Penn State as a member. Delany said Monday that his initial response was different.
“My first thought was, ‘We need to get through this. We need to embrace Penn State,’” Delany said. “They’re a member of the Big Ten, we want them to be a member of the Big Ten and return to health.”
Delany said that the Big Ten worked with former Sen. George Mitchell, Penn State’s former integrity monitor, and the NCAA in helping to reduce the sanctions, which were rolled back in 2013 and ended in 2014.
“It’s been a difficult, difficult road for the institution, for the [athletic] department, for the friends and for the Paterno family,” Delany said.
Delany last December presented Penn State with the Big Ten championship trophy in Indianapolis. He called Penn State’s football resurgence “maybe the least important” part of the last five years and said coach James Franklin has “done an amazing job.”
“I think the university is one of the great ones in the country, I think their culture is one of the great ones in the country,” Delany said. “… Their football team is now healthy after coming through teh sanctions over the last five years under their great leadership, great players, and we’re very happy that they have gotten to the other side.
“But I don’t think anyone forgets about the victims or the circumstances that hurt a lot of people. It’s been a tough road to go, but I think we’re on the other side.”