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YSU President Tressel?

Published: Sun, January 13, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Todd Franko (Contact)

There was rampant chatter this week about whether a certain person would seek office.

And it wasn’t about the Youngstown mayor’s seat and Mayor Charles Sammarone or state Rep. Robert Hagan. (Both of them announced this week they do not want to be mayor next year.)

The chatter was about being boss of Youngstown State University and whether the post would be filled by Jim Tressel.

Or if it should be.

Or would he even want it if approached?

The Tressel love fest within the community and YSU operations is not new. It came up during the last presidential search. It came up last year for a development vacancy. But at this particular stage in life that both he and YSU find themselves, the prospects of such a marriage are ripe for deeper pondering.

And it has been deep of late.

It actually started within hours of President Cynthia Anderson’s retirement announcement. It swelled during the holiday social gatherings. This week, with the holidays past, the idea kicked into overdrive for some.

It was hard to not take part in the speculation and pondering.

“YSU President Jim Tressel” is instantly polarizing here — people either love the thought or do not. Without fail in my chatter this week, the path to anyone’s opinion always touched on the opposing opinions and never dismissed them outright. It was either:

“Jim Tressel would be a terrific president, but we note the challenges.”

Or ...

“Jim Tressel would not be ideal as president, but we know he would address immense needs here.”

Of the many ways to engage the idea of President Tressel, let’s consider these two truths:

Truth One: Much of a college president’s job these days is less about academics and more about business.

They have to stand for the academic institution, but they have to run for the money.

One YSU boss this week estimated that 50 percent of the president’s job is about money: finding it, encouraging it, controlling it.

Truth Two: Because of the above reality, more and more universities are hiring presidents who are less academic-based and more business-oriented.

In a 2012 report by the American Council on Education and featured in a Boston Globe story, 20 percent of U.S. college presidents are not traditional academicians. Six years ago, it was 13 percent.

The Globe wrote: “Many believe the trend is a symptom of the increasing corporatization of higher education, as colleges, especially smaller ones with lackluster or limited endowments, struggle to steady their finances and attract students willing and able to pay high tuition.”

So, many like what Tressel could mean to YSU. His ability to raise funds is perhaps unmatched in the Mahoning Valley and possibly Ohio.

Said one professor: A stronger academic background would be preferred, but Tressel could bring in much-needed external funding support.

One group more assertive in pursuit of “President Tressel” seized more on his other traits: pure leadership, direction and passion to succeed.

2013 will be a pivotal year for the area. We get to pick a Youngstown mayor and a YSU president in the same year. It’s happened twice before — 1984 and 1931.

With the emerging energy economy and downtown development, the area is ripe for a rebound. Dynamic leaders in both offices will be essential.

Tressel certainly can be that type — but for the cloud.

Some pause about “President Tressel” and the lack of doctoral letters after his name. But the big pause for some was more about his departure from Ohio State.

That will always be hard for folks to reconcile.

I think back (as I’ve done before) to Jack Nicholson on the stand in “A Few Good Men” — chiding Tom Cruise in that for him and others to live great, pretty, posh lives, it’s afforded by people like Nicholson who have to do work others deem unseemly.

It’s among the best truisms ever in screenwriting.

People enjoy big-time college athletics, with football being at the top. But it’s not pretty work. It’s an industry where the sidelines often are the only clear boundaries.

When Tressel went down, we had a “dirty-work” debate in the newsroom. One staffer admonished us and said that there is purity in college football.

His exact words: “Look at Joe Paterno and what he’s done for Penn State.”

Maybe not ...

The Tressel moral- compass argument came up in several ways this week, and it deflated most often. In one spirited chat, it was finally reasoned that Tressel’s wrongs will never, ever be equated with Jim Traficant or those of that ilk who stain the Valley legacy. Tressel’s misdeeds — whether at YSU or OSU — always were tied to player issues and not self-gain, they believed.

But that the issue is so central to any speculation, it may be more of a reason for Tressel to not seek the job at all — more so than the battle over the degreed initials after his name. He’s got a great gig at the University of Akron, and according to some, is being groomed to be president there.

His supporters are being told he’s not interested in the YSU job. But they’re not taking “no” that easily.

One YSU boss said a Tressel candidacy campaign would not be dismissed but would have to be from the more pure interests in the Valley — not the self-interests.

But if it did gain traction, the thought of handing him the job would be ill-conceived. A process is important. Said one official, “It’s a process that even a competitor like Coach would respect.”

So, we ponder President Tressel.

I’ll never be accused of conventional. I’m an enormous fan of going against the grain.

I think campuses need convincing connections to their communities that traditional academicians sometimes struggle to make.

I would not dismiss outright the thoughts of a Tressel presidency.

And the discussion this week showed others find it hard to walk away from the thought, too.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at tfranko@vindy.com. He blogs, too, on vindy.com. Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.


1NoBS(2818 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

The only place I've heard Tressel being discussed as a possible successor to Anderson is here on Vindy.

Tressel is a good man, and I believe him to be honest and honorable. He's a good "people person." But does he have the education and background to be an effective president of YSU? Not that I'm aware of.

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2mishmash(333 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Please, let us NOT make this mistake.

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3papa1(711 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

"honest and honorable?" he had a chance to be honest and honorable and failed miserably. his obsession to win another national championship at osu cost this last seasons' team dearly and tarnished the reputation of one of the finest institutions in america. osu president gordon gee said after the cheating scandal, about tressel, " i hope he doesn't fire me." he was overcome with delusions of grandeur and thought he was above it all. honest and honorable? i think not. maybe he didn't bother to read his own book.

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4AtownAugie(891 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

A primary responsibility of the modern university president is fund raising -- what many call "rain making." With Mr Tressel as president, the YSU coffers of such critical legs of the funding stool as endowments, funded chairs and research grants -- to name only a few -- soon will be overflowing. With such abundant "rain," sunshine quickly follows. It's been cloudy here for far too long. (And as far as letters after his name? With his rain making, YSU will give Mr Tressel a Ph.D. -- standing for all the money Piled Higher and Deeper.)

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5Tigerlily(509 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Ahh, gotta love the rampant anti-intellectualism in this town.

We don't need no education!

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6kurtw(1821 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Fund-raising skills notwithstanding, can someone please explain to me why the President of a 2nd Rate University in a small Northeastern Ohio town should make as much as the President of the United States?

That's right Cynthia Anderson pulls in 400 G's a year- the same as Barack Obama.

Meanwhile, students are struggling to meet their tuition expenses and Y.S.U is losing enrollment yearly.

There's a "dis-connect" here somewhere.

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7kurtw(1821 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Actually, bringing in Jim Tressel to head Y.S.U. would be very consistent with the history of this town.

He had to give up his Ohio State Coaching job in disgrace, but that's not a disqualifying factor in Y-town.

Remember the other "Jim"- got indicted, as Sheriff, by the feds for racketeering, and yet went on to become our wonderful Congressman where he served for many years as Head Clown until the Feds salted his tail again and put him away for 10 years.

Yep, Jim Tressel, Jim Traficant- "Two Peas in a Pod", as they say.

P.S. But Todd Francko thinks Tressel is a good fundraiser- so that decides it as far as I'm concerned. I'm sure- if Tressel comes in, area Tattoo Parlor Owners, will be ecstatic.

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8kurtw(1821 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

I still think the whole "search" for a Y.S.U. President is a "dog and pony show". The job is not that important. And it certainly isn't worth 400 G's a year.

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9walter_sobchak(2713 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

This is not a far-fetched idea. The #1 mission of the modern university president is making the money roll in the doors. Just look at the value of the endowment at Notre Dame! The Youngstown area, and most of Ohio, still have a favorable opinion about Jim Tressel in spite of the problems he had at OSU. He had problems at YSU, but they were all hushed up by the authorities. I believe he would be an excellent choice for making and extending academic and financial ties to local businesses and philanthropists.

Now, we all know that the landscape of major college football has to be altered to meet the challenges faced with athletes from modern society. The NCAA will be making changes and this will be brought about by the presidents and athletic directors of the NCAA institutions. It would make perfect sense for Tressel to be on the committee to outline the changes that are realistically needed to protect college athletics. This would be a good feather in the cap for YSU to have its president sitting on such a committee. Jim Tressel is still a decent, likable man that has proven leadership capabilities. Unfortunately, when you make deals with the devil, you will always get burned.

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10Westsider(269 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

When the most important job of the College or University President is fund and friend-raising, a terminal degree is not necessary. The Provost is the person whose job it is to oversee the academic integrity of the curriculum, the Deans and the faculty. Jim Tressel is a proven fund raiser and is well connected in the Mahoning Valley. Those are reasons this is not an absurd notion. However, whether he even wants the job, the above-mentioned characteristics are far more necessary in a college president than a Ph.D.

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11kurtw(1821 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

OK. I get it. Running a University is all about fund raising- bringing in the cash- taping the Alumni Pocketbook, etc. It's also about having a Winning Football team- where young men are cajoled (pressured) into a sport designed to injure the brain the University is supposed to educate.

Does any of that make sense? It doesn't to me. In fact, what you see going on at places like Y.S.U. (over-priced, elitist education) is a great argument for Community Colleges and I.T.T. technical institute.

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12kurtw(1821 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Furthermore, the whole stampede years ago where every high school senior was assumed, naturally, to go on to college and where technical, vocational educational training was discouraged- was a huge mistake.

What were left with today is a glut of college-degreed people, who have trouble finding work, and a national shortage of people with technical skills- machinists, draftsmen, building trades, etc.

I think we need to reassess our national priorities and, I think, if we did- "the dog and pony show" we see at YSU (and every other University) wouldn't exist.

P.S. I realize that-apart from finding money- the other big priority of Higher Education is Football.

I'd like to know if students entering that sport are told of the health risks their participation in that program entails. Football is unique, in that as far as I know, no other Sport with the exception of Boxing is as likely to cause serious injuries- especially injuries to the brain.

Are they made aware of this, or are the risks poo pooed?

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13kurtw(1821 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

I just went on Google to check Presidential salaries of Universities and, I find, Y.S.U.- is actually at the low end of the scale- at (only) 400,000. The heads of K.S.U and O.S.U. make almost double.

My apologies to Cynthia Anderson- she's actually underpaid and whoever takes her place should ask for an immediate increase. Fairs fair.

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14jmagaratz(189 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

$400,000 divided by roughly 12,000 students equals $33.33 per.

Divide the salaries of the OSU President by its enrollment and you will see that OSU underpays its President and the YSU is an excellent job opportunity.

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