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Penn State scandal: NCAA considers 'death penalty' for football program

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) - As the NCAA considers whether Penn State should face penalties following the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal - including a possible shutdown of its celebrated football program - the university says it will respond within days to the governing body's demand for information.

Jerry Sandusky, left, with Joe Paterno when Sandusky was an assistant coach and heir apparent to Paterno at Penn State. AP Photo.

The head of the NCAA has declared that the so-called death penalty has not been ruled out for Penn State, but university president Rodney Erickson said Tuesday he doesn't want to "jump to conclusions" about possible sanctions.

The NCAA is investigating whether Penn State lost "institutional control" over its athletic program and violated ethics rules. Its probe had been on hold for eight months while former FBI Director Louis Freeh conducted an investigation on behalf of the school's board of trustees.

Freeh's 267-page report, released last week, asserted that late football coach Joe Paterno and three top officials buried allegations against Sandusky, his retired defensive coordinator, more than a decade ago to protect the university's image.

Sandusky was convicted last month of sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period. He awaits sentencing.

Erickson said now that Penn State has the results of its own investigation in hand, it can turn its attention to the NCAA.

"The NCAA has indicated that they'd like me to respond ... as quickly as possible now that we have the Freeh report," he said. "So we've already started the process of starting to compose that response. We'll do so over the course of the next few days and get that response back as soon as possible, and we'll then engage in discussions with the NCAA."

In a PBS interview Monday night, NCAA President Mark Emmert said he's "never seen anything as egregious as this in terms of just overall conduct and behavior inside a university." He said he doesn't want to take "anything off the table" if there's a finding that Penn State violated NCAA rules.

The last time the NCAA shut down a football program was in the 1980s, when Southern Methodist University was forced to drop the sport because of extra benefits violations. After the NCAA suspended the SMU program for a year, the school decided not to play in 1988, either, as it tried to regroup.

Erickson would not say whether he thought Penn State deserved to have its football program yanked.

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves here," Erickson told The Associated Press as he conducted a round of media interviews in his office on Tuesday. "Let's wait for this process to unfold. President Emmert has said that the NCAA will take a deliberate and deliberative process in addressing this, so I don't think we should jump to any conclusions at this point."

Schools often propose sanctions to the governing body. Erickson pointed out that Penn State has already given $2.6 million in bowl revenues to its new center for child abuse research and treatment and to the Pennsylvania Coalition against Rape, a group that operates rape crisis centers across the state.

"We've already started to impose sanctions in the sense that we took away $2.6 million of athletic department funds," Erickson said. "Surely we'll have to do more, but we're already on that road."

Erickson also addressed the controversy swirling around the statue of Paterno outside Beaver Stadium, saying that no decision has been made on whether to take it down. The bronze statue had been a rallying point for students in the months since Sandusky's November arrest.

"I'm still in the process of talking with members of my leadership team," Erickson said. "I'll want to talk with members of the board and others. And we will make a decision, and we will make the right decision based on what we believe is the best course of action for the university."

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