Eugene DePasquale pulled no punches in his press conference Thursday announcing the results of his audit of Penn State.
Pennsylvania’s auditor general had harsh words for the university, former president Rodney Erickson, former FBI director Louis Freeh, Jerry Sandusky and the NCAA.
He unloaded a lot of numbers, a lot of statistics, a lot of data, but he also unleashed a hefty amount of opinion on how the Penn State board structure works and how things have happened since the Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
“I’m gonna get myself in trouble,” he said at one point.
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It didn’t stop him.
DePasquale didn’t critique Freeh’s report on the scandal. He just said it should never have been commissioned.
“It should have been done by an independent entity,” he said.
Penn State hired Freeh to do the investigation that became the basis for the NCAA’s sanctions and was raised in three criminal cases and is cited in or has prompted multiple civil cases.
All of that could have been avoided, DePasquale said, if the auditor general’s office had done it, or it had been given to the federal Department of Education to explore, or if another state’s auditor had stepped in.
“Louis Freeh was hired by the university,” he said. “You can argue he was hired to do their bidding.”
Erickson made panicked decisions when he became president after Graham Spanier was fired, DePasquale said.
“When you panic, you make mistakes,” he said.
Some of those included things he covered in the report, such as not taking the advice of the former auditor to cut back the board size and become more transparent. The transparency was an issue for DePasquale, who was a legislator at the time of the scandal.
“Erickson lied to me,” he said, recounting a conversation about legislation that would open the university to Right-to-Know Law, saying Erickson supported it but then lobbied against it. “I don’t care who you are. You don’t lie. I have a disagreement on the issue with President (Eric) Barron, but he’s honest about it.”
DePasquale also went after the NCAA, an organization he said ranked just above the scandal-ridden international soccer organization FIFA and the International Olympic Committee.
“They’re not exactly the Vatican,” he said. “The NCAA should have found an independent source to do the report. They should have been focused on protecting kids. Instead they removed scholarships for future football players.”
DePasquale said the problem was using the organization’s power to target players, not administrators.
“Punish the adults all you want. Put cement loafers on Sandusky and dump him in the ocean for all I care,” he said, accusing the NCAA of “taking out their own vendetta on Penn State.”
He also roundly criticized the university for enlarging the board of trustees rather than following recommendations to reduce size, something he said he believed was politically motivated, calling the board positions “plum seats.”
“I think it’s an ego boost for some,” he said. “I think there should be a re-evaluation of how the board operates.”
At least one group was happy to hear the condemnations.
“The auditor general’s excoriation today of Penn State’s leadership is consistent with the concerns we’ve been voicing for six long years,” said Maribeth Roman Schmidt, spokesperson for Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship.
“The question is, what are the consequences for this colossal failure of leadership at the state’s largest university?” she said. “We now call upon the attorney general to act swiftly and forcefully. And, we once again request the removal of the remaining 2011 trustees whose breach of fiduciary responsibly has cost the university close to a half billion dollars.”
Penn State trustee Anthony Lubrano also agreed with much of DePasquale’s commentary.
“As his report pertains to governance, I think the auditor general is spot on. With respect to the NCAA, I think the auditor general is too kind. The NCAA as an organization is on par with FIFA and the IOC, not slightly above them. Mark Emmett is a sanctimonious hypocrite as are many of the members of the former Executive Committee (now Board of Governors),” he said.
He was just as blunt as the auditor when it came to the Freeh report.
“Louis Freeh is a fraud. Period. End of story,” Lubrano said.