The resignation of Timothy Wolfe as president of the storm-tossed University of Missouri is a reminder of who it is who runs major universities in this day and age — football players.

Growing student and faculty protests over Mr. Wolfe's handling or failure to handle racial incidents on the campus of the state's flagship university had not forced his departure. His timid response was that of a bureaucrat rather than a leader, but that he was ultimately forced out by the football team speaks volumes about the disproportionate influence of athletic teams at many major institutions of higher learning.

The players' announcement that they would not play their next game against Brigham Young if Mr. Wolfe did not depart drew national attention to the campus controversy. A one-game forfeit would cost the school $1 million and the bad press would have hurt athletic recruiting and admissions indefinitely. It only took the threat to finish the university president.

That black students have long been the victims of racial slurs and prejudice is inexcusable and Mr. Wolfe was slow to react to campus racism. University presidents have to get out in front of racial incidents and the justifiably angry response to them before they and their school are overwhelmed. The same goes for community leaders across the nation as well.


Ideally, however, Mr. Wolfe would have remained to become part of the solution to the university's problems. King Football spoke, however, (in winter it would have been King Basketball), and the blunt force economic power of collegiate athletic programs negates dialogue, cooperation and real long-term solutions.