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(Reuters) - The NCAA Executive Committee said on Monday it would ease sanctions imposed in 2012 on Pennsylvania State University's football program as punishment for the school's involvement in the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal.
The governing board of the National Collegiate Athletic Association said it voted to allow the Nittany Lions to play in postseason bowl games at the end of this season. It also restored the team's full complement of 85 football scholarships beginning a year from now.
Former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, who serves as the external monitor of Penn State’s compliance, praised the university’s conduct since the sanctions were imposed and urged easing the bowl ban and restoring the scholarships.
"In light of Penn State's responsiveness to its obligations and the many improvements it has instituted, I believe these student-athletes should have the opportunity to play in the post-season should they earn it on the field this year,” Mitchell said in his second annual report released on Monday.
In a case that rocked big-time college sports, Sandusky was found guilty in 2012 of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years, using his position in the prestigious football program to gain access to youth.
His former boss, coaching legend Joe Paterno, lost his job in the aftermath of the scandal. Paterno died in 2012 at age 85.
Mitchell said nothing in the report about restoring the 111 football victories stripped from Penn State by the sanctions.
Paterno's son, Scott Paterno, welcomed the NCAA's rollback of penalties.
"This is one more step in correcting the unjust and irresponsible penalties imposed on the university," he said in a statement.
Mitchell praised Penn State President Eric Barron for calling last week for "civility" in discussing the NCAA sanctions, and noted the hostility the university faced from alumni in trying to comply with the NCAA demands.
Barron said in a statement on Monday that Mitchell’s recommendations and the NCAA action “are a recognition of the hard work of many over the past two years to make Penn State a stronger institution. This is welcome news for the University community.”
Reporting by David DeKok in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Editing by Sandra Maler, Eric Beech and Peter Cooney