By Dave Warner
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Penn State University accepted unprecedented NCAA penalties as punishment for a child sex abuse cover-up because they were better than the alternative: a likely multi-year death sentence for its football program, according to school trustees.
The trustees said in a statement late Wednesday after a meeting with President Rodney Erickson that it found the "punitive sanctions difficult" and the process with the governing body of U.S. college sports "unfortunate."
"But as we understand it, the alternatives were worse as confirmed by NCAA President Mark Emmert's recent statement that Penn State was likely facing a multi-year death sentence," the Penn State Board of Trustees said in a statement released by school spokesman David La Torre.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association said it was punishing Penn State for its handling of child sex abuse reports against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
In June, Sandusky was convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years, sometimes at the Penn State facilities. He awaits sentencing and faces up to 373 years in prison.
The board said it discussed with Erickson the punishment he accepted for Penn State, which included a $60 million fine, a reduction in football scholarships, a four-year ban from lucrative post-season games and the voiding of the last 14 years of football victories.
This month, former FBI director Louis Freeh released a report that criticized the late legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, who was Sandusky's boss, for protecting the serial pedophile and the school's image at the expense of young victims.
(Writing by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Eric Walsh)
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