By Dave Warner
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - The organization which regulates U.S. college sports, the NCAA, said on Tuesday it would allow Penn State to gradually restore scholarships for football because the university had made progress in regaining "integrity" following a sex abuse scandal.
"While there is more work to be done, Penn State has clearly demonstrated its commitment to restoring integrity in its athletics program," said George Mitchell, a former U.S. Senator hired by the National Collegiate Athletics Association to monitor the Penn State situation.
A former Penn State assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky, was convicted in June 2012 on 45 counts of child sex abuse for molesting 10 boys over 15 years, some in the football team's showers on campus.
"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," Penn State President Rodney Erickson said in a statement Tuesday.
But a member of the Penn State board of trustees, Anthony Lubrano, said the NCAA needs to ease sanctions further.
"It's a good first step but it's not nearly enough," Lubrano said in a phone interview. "I want the NCAA to acknowledge that it overstepped its authority when it intervened in this matter."
The scholarship cap was just one of several sanctions the NCAA imposed on Penn State. It also wiped off the records 14 years worth of victories the team racked up under coach Joe Paterno, imposed fines totaling $60 million on the university and banned the team from appearing in post-season bowls.
The NCAA currently limits Penn State to awarding 65 football scholarships. It will raise that cap by five, to 70, in the 2014-15 academic year and allow it to reach the league standard of 85 by the 2016-2017 academic year.
(Additional reporting By Greg McCune; Editing by Scott Malone and Bob Burgdorfer)