STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State will be eligible for the postseason this year and will have all its scholarships returned next year, after the NCAA agreed Monday afternoon to again reduce sanctions stemming from the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
Penn State's athletics integrity monitor, former Sen. George Mitchell, recommended both actions in his second annual report that gauges progress made by the university. Minutes after the report was announced, the NCAA said it would follow both recommendations immediately.
"Penn State has made remarkable progress over the past year," said South Carolina president Harris Pastides, a member of the NCAA's board of directors. "The board members and I believe the executive committee's decision is the right one. It allows both the university and the association to continue to move toward a common goal of ensuring that educating, nurturing and protecting young people is a top priority."
The school still must pay a $60 million fine, 111 wins under Joe Paterno -- and one win under interim coach Tom Bradley -- remain forfeited, and the program will remain under monitoring.
Scott Paterno, a son of Paterno's and a spokesman for the family, said a lawsuit brought against the NCAA and Penn State will continue despite the most recent reduction in sanctions.
"Finding out the full truth is the first priority and focus," Paterno said. "I am also hopeful and certain that at some time his victories will be restored."
The reduction comes one season after the NCAA scaled back the scholarships penalty following a glowing review by Mitchell in his first annual report. Originally, Penn State would have been able to field only 65 scholarship players this season; now that number is at 75.
Before Monday's announcement, Penn State would have had 80 scholarships next season and a full 85 in 2016. The Nittany Lions also wouldn't have been eligible for the postseason until 2016. Now, Penn State can play in a bowl this season and will see its scholarship limit return to 85 in time for next season.
"Senator Mitchell's report and recommendations, along with the actions taken by the NCAA today, are a recognition of the hard work of many over the past two years to make Penn State a stronger institution," university president Eric Barron said in a statement. "This is welcome news for the university community, particularly for our current and future student-athletes."
Former FBI director Louis Freeh made 119 recommendations to Penn State in the wake of the Sandusky scandal. The university has complied with at least 115 of those -- with three more in progress or on track.
NCAA president Mark Emmert announced the major sanctions in July 2012, penalties that some experts heralded as "worse than the death penalty," of shutting the program down entirely for a brief period. Originally, Penn State faced a four-year postseason ban in addition to reduced scholarship numbers, the $60 million fine and the ability for players to transfer elsewhere without penalty for one year.
"This is deserved because those penalties were never deserved," said Jay Paterno, former Penn State assistant under his father. "I am happy for the university and the team. This is a great thing for the university and the football program but there is still a lot to be done and a lot to be corrected. I think the NCAA saying this relief is because of the Mitchell report process is a cover for the fact that there was a faulty Freeh report."
Only nine players opted to transfer, and the Nittany Lions went on to win 15 games in the two seasons following the sanctions. Penn State is 2-0 this season.
"It's definitely good for them," former Penn State receiver Allen Robinson said. "With everything that happened, this does a lot for the team and says a lot about the players who stayed."
Sandusky, convicted in July 2012 on 45 counts of sexual abuse of 10 boys, is serving a 30- to 60-year prison sentence. Others allegedly involved in a cover-up -- including former school president Graham Spanier, vice president Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley -- are awaiting trial.
Nittany Lions coach James Franklin's contract includes a $350,000 bonus for a Big Ten championship, a $250,000 bonus for a Big Ten championship game appearance and a $200,000 bonus for making a bowl.
"We are very appreciative of the opportunities the NCAA and Big Ten have provided with today's announcement," Franklin said. "This team plays for each other. We play for Penn State, our families, the former players, our students, alumni, fans and the community. We are so proud to represent Penn State and the Big Ten Conference and are working hard to prepare for our Big Ten opener at Rutgers."
Information from ESPN's Joe Schad is included in this report.