Since last November, when the Jerry Sandusky saga propelled Penn State into the headlines, I’ve wondered about Penn State’s former president, Graham Spanier. After reading the Freeh Report in its nauseating detail, I did more than wonder — I started digging for Spanier’s own words on what it means to be a university president.
Let’s go back eleven months, when NCAA Division I presidents concluded a summit that called for “bold, sweeping changes” in intercollegiate athletics. In the NCAA’s own press release on the summit, Spanier had this to say about the need to reform the NCAA rulebook:
Some of these things our coaches and our boosters might not like, but we need to do what I think you are going to see happen in the next year. . . . [Violators] should be afraid now, if they are going to go out and break any rules – because people have had enough of that. . . . The folks that are trying to disrupt the integrity of intercollegiate athletics in this country are going to have to be held more accountable than has been the case in the past.
Somehow, I think what we’ve seen unfold at Penn State in this past year is NOT what Spanier had in mind. Holding people more accountable was clearly not part of the administrative ethos when talking about coaches and boosters at Penn State, as the Freeh Report made abundantly clear.
A few months before that summit of NCAA Division I presidents, Spanier was at the heart of the 2011 investigation of the Fiesta Bowl for financial irregularities and other major problems. At the time, Spanier was the chair of the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee, and chaired the BCS investigative task force that looked into the matter. From the task force’s report, page 1: