Former senator to be integrity monitor for Penn State athletics

Story highlights

  • NCAA appoints George Mitchell to watch over Penn State athletes
  • Mitchell was U.S. senator for 15 years
  • He immediately assumes role but has not met with the university yet
  • He's famous for baseball's steroid findings, known as "The Mitchell Report"
Former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell is the new, independent athletics integrity monitor at Penn State, the NCAA announced Wednesday.
Mitchell, who turns 79 on August 20, immediately began his five-year term, according to a release from the organization, which oversees major college sports.
A spokesman for Penn State said the university has not yet met with Mitchell, who served Maine as a Democrat in the Senate from 1980 to 1995. He was the majority leader the last six years of his time in the Senate.
"His extensive experience on the boards of major companies ... and deep understanding of the sports industry, make him uniquely qualified for this position," the university said through a statement released by spokesman David La Torre.
Mitchell led Major League Baseball's nearly two-year investigation into allegations of steroid use and released "The Mitchell Report" in 2007. It found "widespread illegal use of anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing substances" among players. The report made 20 recommendations, which Commissioner Bud Selig embraced.
Some controversy followed the report because Mitchell was director of the Boston Red Sox, and none of their players was mentioned in the report. Mitchell maintained that he was unbiased.
He also led a U.S. Olympic Committee investigation into Salt Lake City's bid for the 2002 Winter Olympics that resulted in a bribery scandal.
More recently, Mitchell was President Barack Obama's special envoy to the Middle East.
"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, according to the NCAA's statement.
The NCAA said Mitchell will have "broad access to the campus, personnel and records" and will write quarterly reports for the organization, the Big Ten Conference, in which Penn State plays, and the Penn State board of trustees.
The position of independent athletics integrity monitor was mandated among the sanctions handed down from the NCAA in the wake of the scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted on 45 counts of child sex abuse against 10 male victims.
The NCAA slapped the school with a four-year postseason ban and imposed a $60 million sanction after investigators blamed top university leaders, including the late Joe Paterno, for their "total and consistent disregard" of victims while a sexual predator lurked on campus.