When the NCAA had its summer retreat last August, then Penn State president Graham Spanier was one of the most vocal participants.
He talked about how important it was to bring integrity to college athletics.
He was fired by Penn State last week for allegedly not reporting what could be one of the worse scandals in our country’s history.
The grand jury report on the alleged sexual abuse of children by former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky presented a scathing picture of an institution that looked the other way to protect its image.
Back on that hot summer August day, Spanier, along with other college presidents, spoke about getting tougher on the “rule breakers” to ensure university athletic programs operate with dignity and honor.
“I just think a number of us have gotten fed up,” Spanier said to the media after the retreat.
Here is a snippet of quotes from Spanier, some of which are still on the NCAA website: “Violators should be afraid now if they are going to go out and break any rules because people have had enough.
“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. ... What is different now is that a lot of things have reached the boiling point.”
Knowing what we do now, it is hard to imagine what was going through his mind when he spoke those words.
When legendary football Hall of Famer Jim Brown visited here last spring, he said the NCAA was an elitist organization that was out of touch with society.
His words may offer the only insight into Spanier’s thinking.
Spanier was talking about college athletes taking money, selling memorabilia and accepting improper benefits -- the things college presidents say they abhor.
He apparently wasn’t walking about a sexual predator preying on helpless children on a college campus.
His lack of action echoes a cry that is heard all over the NCAA landscape -- that college administrators pick and choose whom they want to cite for violations. Unfortunately, athletes are the easiest targets. They are young, without resources to mount a legal challenge and have virtually no power against the billion-dollar industry major college football has become.
It would be unfair to compare any other college president to Spanier’s role in this tragic affair at Penn State if the allegations hold to be true. And all the other violations pale to what allegedly happened at the place they call “Happy Valley.”
The sad connection is that few good examples of integrity are being set at the top of colleges where the administrators sit.
We don’t have to look very far here in our state.
University of Miami president Donna Shalala got caught up in the web involving booster Nevin Shaprio, who was convicted of a $930 million Ponzi scheme.
He later boasted he lavished money, gifts and prostitutes on the Miami players in an egregious series of acts that Shalala said she knew nothing about.
Last week, UCF fired its athletic director and top football recruiter and suspended its men’s head basketball coach. It followed an NCAA investigation that involves allegations of numerous violations, including a recruiter for a professional sports agency allegedly giving money to players.
UCF, which is a repeat NCAA offender, has reportedly been invited to join the Big East Conference, which claims to pride itself in integrity. The Big East also is courting Boise State, which has been cited by the NCAA for rules violations.
We have college presidents moving their schools around to different conferences as if they were children playing with toy cars as they chase the almighty dollar.
There seems to be little concern about how this will affect the families of these athletes, who in some cases will have to travel nearly a thousand miles more to see their children play in a new conference.
There is no one setting an example, which is why so many athletes who take money say they see it as an entitlement.
Those at the top are setting the bar and right now it couldn’t be any lower.
Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 745-2112.