STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) - Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany is praising Penn State's handling of the NCAA sanctions against the football program.
Delany in an interview with The Associated Press cited positive reports from former Sen. George Mitchell, who is monitoring Penn State's progress with the landmark sanctions, more than a year after they were handed down in July 2012 as a punishment for the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. Delany called attention to the actions of school president Rodney Erickson, athletic director Dave Joyner and second-year coach Bill O'Brien.
"It's been a difficult time, but each of those (persons), in each of their ways, under huge amounts of pressure and huge amounts of differences of opinion, has acquitted themselves really well and has moved the institution to a better place," said Delany, who was visiting Penn State on Thursday as part of a league tour of preseason camps.
Delany spoke individually with a few media outlets at a Beaver Stadium lounge before afternoon practice Thursday.
"It's still got a number of years to go ... but the Big Ten has done what it thought needed to be done, and also, in the process, be supportive and help Penn State return to a sense of wholeness," Delany said. "It was difficult for the conference, but we're working our way through it. Penn State's embraced by coaches, athletic directors and the presidents."
Penn State is entering the second of a four-year postseason ban, which includes participation in the Big Ten title game, though the Nittany Lions are still eligible for the Leaders Division crown itself. In that scenario, the second-place team in the division would go to the title game.
Penn State's share of conference bowl revenue will also be distributed evenly among its members schools - including Penn State - for causes related to child advocacy or protection.
When asked, Delany said it was also a little early to look at the possibility of decreasing penalties, or petitioning the NCAA to decrease its sanctions which also include steep scholarship cuts. Mitchell, who has provided quarterly updates, is due to have an annual report ready in the next month or two.
The sanctions are also the subject of a lawsuit seeking to overturn the penalties filed by the family of the late coach Joe Paterno, along with some former assistants, players, trustees and faculty members.
"What we're looking for, and what we're focused on, is the continual assessment of the extent to which Penn State and the NCAA and the Big Ten have made the progress that all agree should be made," he said. "We're only in the first year of a four- or five-year process. I think it's a little premature, but there's a process for that if the time is right."
Penn State is also the linchpin for the formation of the new Big Ten men's hockey league set to begin this fall. The school upgraded its men's hockey program to Division I status, joining Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota and Ohio State to give the league six teams. A new hockey arena is set to open in a few months, just down the street and around the corner from Beaver Stadium. Delany said he expected to announce a "robust" league media package soon for hockey.
"I think our championship will grow, and I think you'll see that growth pretty immediately," Delany said. "I'm very bullish on hockey."