An Opportunity for Penn State to Set the Bar on Transparency

On Monday morning, July 23, the NCAA released a statement that was heard around the world.

In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case, Penn State received a $60 million sanction and a four-year bowl ban; additionally, all wins since 1998 have to be vacated.  Aside from the infamous death penalty levied on Southern Methodist University in 1987, these penalties are among the stiffest in college football history.

The football program must also reduce 10 initial and 20 total scholarships each year for a four-year period.

The Penn State scandal has created a national uproar for the past eight months and has cast an unmovable shadow over a once-proud University and a once-revered coach in the late Joe Paterno.

And now that the NCAA has spoken loud and clear with its position, it’s up to Penn State to speak just as loud in its response.

The university will need to be continually and consistently aggressive in its response to the penalties, and publicly sensitive to the issues surrounding the investigation.

In advance of the NCAA's announcement, the university removed a statue of Paterno from in front of its football stadium.

“Penn State already took a huge step on July 22 in repairing their image from a public relations standpoint with the statement released by President Rodney Erickson,” says Rebkah Howard, attorney and partner with ImagePro, LLC. “By explaining in great detail the reasons why they removed the Paterno statue, it struck the perfect balance of acknowledging the wrongdoing while paving a way to move forward as a university community—one less focused on the idolatry of the football program and culture that allowed this scandal to unfold.

“After today, the appropriate response would be a brief acknowledgment of the NCAA sanctions they agreed to and, more importantly, in the short term, clear, visible actions of the university's stated commitment to help combat the sexual abuse of children.”

Kenneth Wisnefski, founder and CEO Internet marketing company WebiMax, says Penn State should set up a communications hub "dedicated to disseminating information about how Penn State is proactively addressing the scandal and engage with members of their various publics on the issues with full disclosure. "

Penn State has everything to gain by adopting a policy of maximum transparency. Building trust among alumni, fans and the general public will take time, but the first step is showing the public that it is finally willing to be transparent in the sharing of information.

 Follow Jamar Hudson: @jamarhudson