The saddest aspects of the Oregon football scandals (Sunday, Oct. 26) are the quotes from the prominent officials involved, in particular the former president of the university, William Boyd, who escaped to the comfortable environment of a foundation presidency -- where he sits in judgment of those who seek grants.
His principal quote deserves great attention: "Universities . . . are accustomed to operating on the basis of trust. They have no built-in checks. It works 99 percent of the time, but it does make them vulnerable. Every now and then scoundrels take us for a ride."
It is typical of such authority figures that they do not recognize that the principal "checks" that are required are upon them. Hence, they label others as "scoundrels," carefully exempting themselves from the label. Few activities occupy as much time of university presidents as the athletic programs. Many of them take a direct interest in the coaching staffs. While Boyd admits that "faculty control is a fiction," he does not emphasize why.
Where faculty members are in a position to have some influence in athletics, they are likely to be handed free football tickets, invited on trips with the team, and otherwise fawned upon by administrators who rely upon "stroking" to dissuade faculty members from asking uncomfortable questions. Meanwhile, those connected with the athletic programs know very well that their task amounts to an instruction from the president to "build a winner, but don't bother me with the details." When the scandal erupts, the presidents are the first to look elsewhere for scapegoats.
When a university president insists, as Boyd does, that "we had absolutely no reason to have any suspicions about the program," that should be a red flag for journalists. When a "football program" suddenly "turns around," it is time to begin looking under the rocks. Boyd probably was sitting in his private box each Saturday toasting victories.