(Harrisburg) -- The NCAA says it will gradually restore football scholarships taken from Penn State over the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal, saying the school has made significant changes to its athletics programs.
College sports' governing body says five scholarships will be restored next year and more will be phased in until the school reaches normal totals in 2016-17.
The NCAA says the decision was made based on the recommendation of former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, who's been serving as Penn State's athletics integrity monitor.
"The action taken by the NCAA, following its review of the positive report issued this month by Senator George Mitchell, recognizes the significant efforts over the past year to make Penn State a safer, stronger institution," said Penn State President Rodney Erickson. "This news is certainly welcome to our University community, particularly the student athletes who may want to attend Penn State and will now have the means to do so. As we promised throughout this process, we are committed to continuing to improve all of our policies, procedures and actions."
In a statement released by the university, Erickson offered thanks to Nittany Lions Head Coach Bill O'Brien for his leadership and dedication to his players and the university the last two years. He also acknowledged the work of student athletes.
"The resiliency displayed by those young men, as well as our entire student body is something of which we are proud," Erickson said. "I would also like to thank the literally hundreds of University administrators, faculty, staff and students whose hard work over the past 15 months helped lay the groundwork not only for this action by the NCAA but, even more importantly, for a better Penn State."
Penn State and the NCAA agreed to the penalties a year ago, shortly after Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse.
Penn State is also paying a $60 million fine and serving a five-year ban on postseason play.
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