The NCAA announced on Tuesday morning that Penn State will begin having its football scholarship levels restored to the normal 85-player limit, starting with 20 incoming scholarships and 75 overall in 2014-15 and rising incrementally to full amounts by 2016-17. That's two years earlier than PSU could've had a full roster under the original sanctions.
According to the NCAA, the move was recommended by Sen. George Mitchell, the integrity monitor assigned to Penn State and precipitated by Penn State's continuing compliance with its sanctions handed down last year and the tasks assigned to it to help rebuild the program.
Here's more from the NCAA on the announcement, including a note about whether the program's five-year bowl ban might be reduced as well:
"While there is more work to be done, Penn State has clearly demonstrated its commitment to restoring integrity in its athletics program," said Mitchell. "The university has substantially completed the initial implementation of all the Freeh Report recommendations and its obligations to the Athletics Integrity Agreement, so relief from the scholarship reductions is warranted and deserved."
Consistent with Mitchell's recommendation, the Executive Committee agreed the existing postseason ban, $60 million fine to help fund child abuse programs and other sanctions outlined in the consent decree will remain in effect. However, the group may consider additional mitigation of the postseason ban in the future depending upon Penn State's continued progress.
"Providing relief from the scholarship restrictions will give more student-athletes an opportunity to attend Penn State on athletics scholarship while also creating an incentive for the university to continue its progress under new leadership after President Erickson's impending departure," said Mitchell.
Did you catch that? The NCAA's Executive Committee "may consider additional mitigation of the postseason ban in the future." That's dependent on Penn State's progress on its sanctions, of course, but based on the NCAA's actions thus far, the early bowl ban lift is probably only a matter of time.
"The goal has always been to ensure the university reinforces clear expectations and a daily mindset within athletics that the highest priority must be placed on educating, nurturing and protecting young people," said NCAA President Mark Emmert in the NCAA's official statement. "The Executive Committee’s decision to restore the football scholarships provides additional education opportunities and is an important recognition of Penn State’s progress."
A press conference is beginning shortly.