The NCAA Executive Committee announced Tuesday that it gradually would restore scholarships Penn State lost because of sanctions imposed in July 2012 in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child-abuse scandal.
The existing postseason ban will remain in effect, but the Executive Committee said it may consider additional mitigation of the ban in the future. Currently, Penn State is banned from the postseason through 2015.
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In a release, the NCAA said the changes were because of school's "continued progress toward ensuring athletics integrity" and based on the recommendation of George Mitchell, the independent athletics integrity monitor for Penn State and a former U.S. Senator.
Beginning with the next academic year (2014-15), five additional scholarships will be restored, and this amount will continue to increase. Penn State can award 20 scholarships in 2014-15 and have 75 players on scholarship; the NCAA limits are 25 and 85, respectively. In 2015-16, the school can award 25 scholarships and have 80 players on scholarship. In 2016-17 and going forward, the school can award 25 scholarships and have 85 players on scholarship. That means Penn State can have a full group on scholarship a year earlier than before.
Coach Bill O'Brien and his staff have recruited better than expected in the wake of the scandal. Penn State finished a consensus 30th nationally in recruiting in the 2013 recruiting cycle and signed four players rated as four-star recruits or higher. Early returns on the 2014 class are good; Penn State is expected to finish in the top four in the Big Ten in recruiting, which would be a tremendous effort considering the probation.
The leadership of the Executive Committee met with the Division I Board of Directors and presidents from the Big Ten Conference before taking a vote on the action.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at email@example.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.