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Tressel could lead a Y-juco

Published: Sun, January 20, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

If you believe that Youngstown State University is a glorified junior college (juco) — community college — then Jim Tressel, the disgraced former football coach at Ohio State University, would be perfect as president.

However, if you are of the opinion that Youngstown State is on verge of academic significance with its STEM and business colleges, for example, then having Tressel at the helm would be a grave mistake.

Tressel’s reputation — not the one built on winning national football championship teams at OSU and YSU, but for lying to the NCAA — would undermine the university’s future. Ohio’s public universities and colleges are under the gun. Officials in Columbus have made it clear that state funding will be based on academic performance rather than enrollment numbers or other factors, such as the percentage of first-time college attendees, and the socio-economic profile of the students.

Indeed, Gov. John Kasich has said that YSU and other such institutions must become more selective in their admission policies. The governor wants two-year institutions, such as Eastern Gateway Community College, to become the first stop for high school graduates and those with GEDs who need remediation in the basics so they can tackle college courses.

High cost

Four-year colleges are spending a great deal of money on remediation.

The average of six years it takes to earn a bachelor’s degree has also come under fire from the governor and the outgoing chancellor of the board of regents, Jim Petro. They want a four-year average.

Against that backdrop, Youngstown State needs a president with strong academic credentials. Tressel does not fit the bill.

The board of trustees has begun a search for a successor to Dr. Cynthia Anderson, who is retiring on July 1. A national consulting firm will be hired, and a screening committee has been formed to review the applicants.

While Tressel is being touted by individuals in the Valley with strong ties to YSU, trustee Chairman Dr. Sudershan Garg has said the former coach would have to go through the application process like everyone else.

That’s the way it should be. There can be no backroom deals like the one some years ago. It was a fiasco that not only embarrassed the individual being pushed by some trustees at the time, but also the university.

With Tressel, an Internet search will show that his violation of NCAA rules and his fall from grace at Ohio State is featured more prominently than his national championships at Ohio’s flagship institution of higher learning and Youngstown State.

It will also show that while Ohio State President Dr. Gordon Gee agreed to let Tressel change his resignation to retirement, which allows him to be a Buckeye for life, he did not permit the former coach to be a faculty member.

Tressel, who has a huge following in the Mahoning Valley, is currently vice president for strategic engagement at the University of Akron, a newly created position that supports programs promoting student success, according to The Plain Dealer of Cleveland.

How do you create programs to promote student success? With money — a lot of money.

That seems to be the argument for having Tressel serve as president of YSU: He can raise badly needed revenue.

But, if YSU is to be taken seriously as an institution of higher learning, it needs someone at the helm whose resume reflects a commitment to academics.

OSU’s president

Instead of being distracted by a Tressel candidacy, the trustees should contact Dr. Gee at Ohio State and ask him for a list of names of potential candidates who would meet the challenges of higher education in Ohio.

Why Gee? Because he has become Gov. Kasich’s chief higher education adviser. He was chosen by Kasich to chair the commission on funding for capital projects on campuses, and on state funding for public universities and colleges.

The governor is an unabashed fan of the president of Ohio State. Youngstown State certainly could benefit by having Gee in its corner.

If Youngstown State is to be taken seriously as an institution of higher learning, it needs an individual with strong academic credentials as president.

As a glorified junior college (community college), it doesn’t.

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