We still don't know what happened back then, and we probably never will.
But what we can be almost certain of now that UCF has completed its internal investigation into its football training methods is this:
And, at this point, isn't that really the most important thing of all?
A football player is dead. That's not going to change.
Now how are you going to make sure it doesn't happen again?
"In a time of trouble, it's an opportunity to get better," said Michael Glazier, the former NCAA investigator who conducted a third-party probe in the wake of Plancher's death and the collapse of another player ( Brandon Davis). "But you can only get better if you're honest about what your issues are."
UCF, in the midst of being sued by Plancher's family, was probably about as honest as the lawyers would allow Friday when it released Glazier's findings. The naysayers will point out that Plancher's death was not part of the investigation's focus.
"This was about current policies and practices," Glazier said. "If things were different 14 months ago, that's not where my interest was. My charge was, 'What are you doing now?'"
On the surface, this seems a little like Bud Selig saying he's not making Alex Rodriguez part of baseball's steroids investigation because A-Rod is currently testing clean. But in fairness, can you really blame UCF when you consider the pending litigation? It's not very sound legal strategy to investigate your own role in Plancher's death, make all the findings public and give the Plancher family attorneys a study guide on how to beat out your brains in court.
The critics also will point out UCF paid Glazier $60,000 to conduct this investigation, and therefore its findings can't be taken seriously. Again, what did you want UCF to do? It's not like there is a waiting list of qualified former NCAA gumshoes willing to conduct gratis investigations consisting of three months' worth of digging and interviewing more than 100 UCF football players and employees as well as administrators and trainers from other universities.
Does this investigation exonerate UCF in the Plancher case? Of course not. But it might just help UCF and other programs avoid another catastrophic death.
UCF President John Hitt, Athletic Director Keith Tribble and Coach George O'Leary indicated they will accept Glazier's suggestions to improve their football training methods. Even though Glazier glowingly said the school's procedures are currently "more than adequate," he did come up with a list of "recommendations for enhancement."
Among those: An additional athletic trainer, better communication among the trainers and coaches, and improved monitoring in overseeing nutrition and hydration.
Who knows if any of these recommendations would have saved Plancher's life, but maybe they would have prevented Davis from wilting and ending up in the hospital with kidney problems. UCF officials said afterward that Davis' decision to skip breakfast and only eat a Pop-Tart contributed to his severe case of dehydration. Perhaps one of Glazier's recommendations — a mandatory team breakfast — would have averted Davis' collapse and resulting controversy.
Glazier points out that O'Leary's program is a "rarity" in that it conducts morning football practices. While such a schedule may be ideal in avoiding the intense Florida heat, it can mean players show up for practice without having ingested food or water for eight hours. Obviously, you don't want players going through a grueling workout without being adequately nourished or hydrated.
"Most kids, if they need to be at practice at 7 o'clock, are going to get up at 6:45," Glazier said. "That doesn't leave a lot of time for [proper] nutrition."
A team breakfast may seem like a small step, but someday it might make a huge difference. I've said it before and I'll keep saying it: Sometimes it takes a tragedy before quintessential changes are made. This will be the legacy of Ereck Plancher.
His team, coaches, teammates and university have learned from his death. They will be more careful in the future, more cognizant.
We may never know if UCF followed the proper procedures that might have saved Plancher's life. The lawyers will try to figure out what happened in the past.
As for right now, groundwork has been laid and recommendations made that just might help save lives in the future.
If that's the result of Michael Glazier's investigation, it was the best $60,000 any university ever has spent.
Report endorses UCF football programD7
Glazier report offers hope for UCF football
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