If Penn State had not accepted the NCAA sanctions levied by President Mark Emmert on Monday, it would have faced the so-called "death penalty" over four years, according a report from ESPN's Outside the Lines.
Emmert reportedly told university president Rodney Erickson during a phone conversation on July 17 that he, along with a majority of NCAA officials, wanted to hit the school with the four-year penalty for its involvement in covering up child sexual abuse allegations against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, as outlined by the Freeh Report.
"Well, that's a pretty tough number to swallow," Erickson told Don Van Natta Jr. of ESPN.com. "It's unprecedented. It's a blow to the gut, there's no doubt about that and I couldn't agree to that at all."
Erickson said Penn State then lobbied for the death penalty, which would prevent the school from fielding a football team, to be taken off the table, and instead, it was slapped with a $60 million fine and a four-year postseason ban, among other penalties.
Bill O'Brien, the Nittany Lions' recently-hired head coach, told ESPN on Wednesday he just wanted his team to play and told Erickson as much.
"I want to play football and I want to play football on television," he said.