Penn State President Graham Spanier hasn’t been here for as long as JoePa has, but he’s become such a recognizable part of the University that I have a hard time envisioning Old State without him. Spanier has been University President since 1995 and was a member of the faculty from 1973-1982 before leaving for several administrator positions at other universities across the country.
Yesterday though, the Associated Press ran a story discussing who will succeed Myles Brand as NCAA President. Brand died of pancreatic cancer on September 16. The report names Dr. Spanier as a potential candidate for the NCAA Presidency. One of the main reasons is based on the fact that Dr. Brand had served as a University president before taking over the NCAA (University of Oregon [1989-1994] and Indiana University [1994-2002]). Brand’s tenure was marked by a commitment to improving the student-athlete experience by focusing more on academics and education (something Penn State has never had a problem with). Oregon State University President Ed Ray, who is in charge of finding a replacement for Brand, has hinted that his committee is leaning towards a University President.
The report names University of Hartford president Walter Harrison, Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman, NCAA executive Bernard Franklin, and Graham Spanier as possible candidates. Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman (a contemporary of Spanier’s), Hampton University president William Harvey, Molloy College president Drew Bogner, Widener University president James Harris and Weber State president Ann Millner make ou the rest of the committee in charge of selecting the new president, and are not considered viable candidates themselves.
Interestingly, Spanier himself doesn’t believe that a University President necessarily has to succeed Brand. He mentions in an audio interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education that he doesn’t “think that should be a requirement that the President of the NCAA be a former university President. There are some absolutely spectacular people out there, some wonderful athletic administrators and other leaders who could run that organization.” Though he does reference the fact that there has been a trend among university presidents of having increasing amounts of control of athletic departments.
While Dr. Spanier might be a viable candidate for the NCAA Presidency, I personally don’t see him leaving for Indianapolis (where the NCAA is headquartered). He is obviously qualified, having dramatically increased the University’s footprint both physically and within academia (he directed the creation of the Schreyer Honors College, the College of Information Sciences and Technology, the Penn State World Campus and merger with the Dickinson School of Law) and having served as Chair of the NCAA Division I Board of Directors, but somehow I feel as though he’s too entrenched in Old Main to leave anytime soon. Besides, if he goes, who’s going to play the washboard in State College bars?