PSU President Rodney Erikson has, as I pointed out in my last post, bumbled his way through one of the more momentous moments in NCAA history. He clearly agreed, on his own, without putting it to a vote of his PSU Board of Trustees, to the set of draconian PSU sanctions made public in the Consent Decree ($60 million fine, 4 years of annual 20-scholarship reductions, “get out of jail free” cards to all PSU football players who might want to immediately transfer, and proscription against bowl game play.)
More astonishing was his apparent failure, before putting his signature to the Consent Decree, to even consult with his Board about the real potential for agreed-upon sanctions. Hell, he apparently didn’t even have the presence of mind to call them up, or send them an email, letting them know what was coming.
All of which means he never read Louis Freeh’s exhortations about the Sandusky scandal having derived in substantial part from PSU Administrators failing to inform and consult with the PSU Board. Or that Erikson has something to hide. And/or that he is just plain stupid.
He appears now to have come to some realization that he might’ve goofed, big time, because he now explains his having “frozen-out” his very own Board by claiming that he had to accept the sanctions set forth in the Consent Decree because Emmert and his NCAA Board explicitly told him that if he didn’t, then the NCAA would unilaterally shut down the PSU football program for four years.
Leave aside for a moment that any supposed mention by Emmert of such a potential for a four year “Death Penalty” for PSU might most logically have heightened Erikson’s duty to get on the horn with his own Board. Because we have a direct conflict in the stories here. Somebody’s lying.
Here’s what NCAA Executive Committee Chair (and Oregon State President) Ed Ray told Adam Rittenberg of ESPN on July 23:
“The only potential penalty that we had some extended discussion around was suspension of play, whether that ought to be part of a basket of punitive and corrective measures. There were people who felt that was appropriate, but the overwhelming position of members of both the executive committee and the Division I board was to not include suspension of play. And therefore we moved quickly to a consideration of the actions you heard about today. And that had unanimous support from both groups.”
So Chair Ed says no 4-year death penalty ever came up, and that the overwhelming majority of the NCAA Executive Committee opposed any “suspension of play” whatsoever.
Then able reporter Rittenberg does a good job of follow up:
Rittenberg: So it wasn’t as though you said, “Take this deal or we’re shutting you down”?
To which Ray responded:
“That was never even a point of discussion within either the executive committee or the Division I board.”
Somebody is lying. They both can’t be telling the truth. If I’m the ump on this one, I’m saying Erikson just struck out. Because he violated the #1 cardinal rule for any Manager, in businesses large or small, public or private, profit or non-profit: When in doubt, always consult your Board.
In fact, implicit in Erikson’s assertion is a premise so faulty that his whole excuse evaporates: Erikson is not only saying that he caved due to threat of 4-year death penalty; he is also implicitly suggesting that the threat was time-sensitive, i.e, that Emmert announced to him:
“sign this Consent Decree or we are going to announce right now that PSU is “dead” for four years — and, no, you can’t even have 12 or 24 hours to consult with your own Board.”
Perhaps more to the point, if PSU hired Louis Freeh now to come in and make an “independent” review and report about just this set of discussions and negotiations between Erikson and the NCAA, Louis Freeh would stand at the podium and say out loud:
“PSU’s Rodney Erikson: a) showed an appalling disregard for widely accepted basic principles of corporate governance; and b) Rodney Erikson could not have read the Freeh Report of July 12.”