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George Mitchell Appointed as Penn State's Athletics Integrity Monitor

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The NCAA named former U.S. Senator George Mitchell on Wednesday as the independent "athletics integrity monitor" for Pennsylvania State University, with a five-year term beginning immediately.

As part of the school's unprecedented punishment for the child-sex-abuse scandal involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, the NCAA required Penn State to hire an independent athletics integrity monitor of the NCAA's choosing for the next five years at the school's expense.

As monitor, Mitchell will ensure that the school abides by the Athletics Integrity Agreement (AIA) that it was required to enter into with the NCAA and Big Ten Conference as a result of the scandal. The AIA, which pulled largely from Chapter 10, Section 5.0 of the Freeh Report compiled by former FBI director Louis J. Freeh, requires Penn State to revise the structure of the athletics department and add additional staff to the athletics compliance office.

In addition to the now-required recommendations from the Freeh Report, the AIA also calls for Penn State to establish an athletics compliance officer and compliance council "responsible for the ethical and compliance obligations of the athletics department."

Mitchell will be responsible for a quarterly report to the Penn State board of trustees, the Big Ten Conference, and the NCAA that addresses the school's compliance with the AIA. To aid him in his duties, Penn State must give Mitchell full access to campus facilities, personnel, and records. Mitchell will receive assistance from his law firm, DLA Piper, and will also be allowed to employ outside legal counsel at Penn State's expense, according to the NCAA.

"Senator Mitchell has impeccable credentials as a fair and experienced arbitrator nationally and globally," said NCAA president Mark Emmert in a statement. "He will bring the benefit of his vast experience and knowledge to the execution of the agreement."

Mitchell was originally appointed to the U.S. Senate by the governor of Maine back in 1980 (when Edmund Muskie resigned to become U.S. Secretary of State), and served as the Senate Majority Leader from 1989 to 1995.

Sports fans likely recognize his name as being the namesake of Major League Baseball's "Mitchell Report," which was a nearly two-year investigation into the use of steroids in the MLB.

Now, Mitchell gets to turn his attention to another massive sports scandal.

"I enter this engagement mindful of the fact that this tragedy has deeply affected many lives, starting, of course, with the victims and their families," Mitchell said in a statement released by the NCAA. "I will do my best to fulfill my independent oversight responsibilities to help ensure that Penn State University moves promptly and decisively to achieve the very high level of trust and integrity needed to fulfill its important mission to those it serves."

Photo: Former Sen. George Mitchell will oversee Penn State's compliance with NCAA sanctions as the independent athletics integrity monitor at the university. (Cliff Owen/AP-File)

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