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Is Jim Tressel qualified to be YSU president?

Published: Sun, April 27, 2014 @ 12:01 a.m.

By DENISE DICK | denise_dick@vindy.com


He’s spent most of his career on the football field, not in the hallowed halls of academia, but Jim Tressel is on the short lists for two university presidencies.

Tressel, former head football coach at both Youngstown State and Ohio State universities, is one of six semifinalists for the YSU presidency and one of three finalists for the University of Akron presidency. He has served at Akron since 2012 as executive vice president for student success.

His supporters for the YSU job, with its roughly $179 million operating budget, tout his leadership style and fundraising prowess — prized skills in these days of dwindling state dollars.

But is that enough to earn him the title of “university president”?

“I wouldn’t say that fundraising trumps everything else,” said Kevin P. Reilly, presidential

adviser for leadership at the American Council on Education. “Is it increasingly important? Absolutely.”

He pointed to a 2012 survey of university presidents that asked how they spent most of their time. They listed fundraising, budgeting, community relations and planning. Those presidents cited their greatest challenges as faculty relations, and working with legislators and governing boards.

“What they took the most satisfaction from was working with students, administrators and faculty,” Reilly said.

Reilly, who served as president of the University of Wisconsin System for nine years, said a change he saw during his tenure was that chancellors — the equivalent of presidents in Wisconsin’s system — were spending more time off campus raising funds and building relationships with government at all levels.

That leaves the provost, the No. 2 person on campus and the person charged with the university’s academics, to manage day-to-day operations in the president’s absence.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, wrote a letter last February to YSU trustees signed by 31 business and community leaders, endorsing Tressel as president.

“He has the relationships and obvious leadership skills to build both the financial and organizational support for the YSU initiatives that will grow the university and broader economy,” the letter said.

Bruce Zoldan, president and CEO of B.J. Alan Co., is one of those business leaders. He pointed to Tressel’s charisma, leadership skills and ability to motivate.

“I had him as a speaker to my company when I had 10 stores way back when,” Zoldan said.

Tressel spoke to managers about how to be respectful, positive, successful human beings. It’s something those managers still talk about today, he said.

“That’s the type of person we need at YSU,” Zoldan said.

He acknowledged that others believe someone with an academic background is more suited to the position and he doesn’t discount the value of those skills.

“You’re never going to be able to hire one person with every quality and asset that’s needed,” Zoldan said.

He said that when he’s spoken with Tressel, the former coach has talked about YSU’s need to boost enrollment and says that will be one of his goals if he gets the job.

Zoldan maintains Tressel is the right person for the YSU presidency.

“For me, I have no doubt in my mind, if he stays at YSU for three years, or five or six years, he will bring such prestige and honor to the university and help it recover from the quagmire of Dr. [Randy] Dunn,” who resigned last month after only eight months as YSU president to become president of Southern Illinois University.

Tressel “came from here, and he’s been successful everywhere he’s gone,” Zoldan added.

Tressel has declined to speak publicly about his candidacy for either job.

Susan Resneck Pierce, former president of the University of Puget Sound, who is now a columnist, president of SRP Consulting and author of the book “On Being Presidential,” advises colleges and universities on planning and effective board and presidential performance, governance, curriculum, development and other matters.

“I think that a president needs to be more than the chief development officer of their institution,” she said. “For someone to be in my judgment really effective as a president, as part of the president’s role, they have to be able to understand and articulate and advance the institution’s mission. They need to have a firm understanding of the role of the faculty. The faculty is the heart and soul of any institution.”

One of the interesting things about fundraising, she said, is that the person doing it needs to understand the needs of the institution and what donors care about.

“The challenges of being a university president today are daunting,” Pierce said.

They have to raise money. If they’re at a public institution, they’re working with the Legislature, they’re working in general with the public, “but also, in reality, along with the board you’re responsible for the health and integrity of the institution,” she said.

There’s also the complexity of how you allocate resources. You have to inspire very careful strategic planning, and you have to inspire the confidence of the faculty, Pierce said.

Annette Burden, president of the Ohio Education Association-YSU, the union representing YSU faculty, said the university’s unions hope whomever trustees choose as president, he or she is willing to work with the unions in trying to identify and address problems and not view them as adversaries.

“We hope we have the opportunity for open discussion, transparency and the opportunity to give them our help — whether that be Jim Tressel or any other people [who] are on that list,” she said.

Chet Cooper, president of YSU’s faculty senate, said the trend has been for boards to choose either a president with a background in academics or one with executive or administrative background whose expertise is in fundraising.

“It’s not clear to me which kind we’re going to get this time,” he said.

Stephen Weeks, president of the University of Akron faculty union, is blunt about his views regarding the idea of Tressel leading that university.

In his application letter for the Akron job, Tressel highlighted his experience at UA as a strength for the position.

“Maybe we don’t need a smooth transition,” Weeks said. “Maybe we need someone who can come in with a fresh look at things and some reprioritization.”

The University of Akron is dealing with a budget deficit, and an outside person might be better able to address it, he said.

“Of the people I know, no one is really backing him,” Weeks said. “From what I hear, he was a very good coach, but it’s not the same as running a university — which is a $400 million institution. It seems that people who are really into sports think he’s a really good guy.”

Tressel is scheduled to visit UA all day Thursday, meeting with campus and community groups.

YSU is expected to narrow its list to three finalists this week. They will be scheduled to visit campus next month.


1Roger_Thornhill(1068 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Tressel for YSU!!!!!

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2MD1533(25 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Tressel's got our vote! A

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3mrblue(1175 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

A football coach running a university. Imagine that.

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4candystriper(575 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Tressell + Fundraising = Reality

Youngstown loves a comeback story!

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5RustOnMyBelt(172 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Tresel would be just the "spark" YSU needs to move the university forward.

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6Seriouslee(149 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Uh, shouldn't the story mention the ethics and rule violations that got hm fired from football?

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7James_S(268 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Great Artwork

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8lovethiscity(169 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Here's a very fair question the Vindicator should ask, and request documented proof of the answer, for each of the so-called "community leaders" pushing "Tress" for President of YSU:

"How much have you personally contributed in cash contibutions to Youngstown State University in the past 5 years? Please exclude any contribution to YSU athletic organizations."

YSU published its annual report within the last two months that lists every single contribution it received in 2013. It was amazing who WAS NOT on those lists.

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9Silence_Dogood(1677 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Bravo to the artist. The placement of the local shakers and movers was brilliant. Timmy Ryan looks sea sick and about ready to puke his guts out over the side of the boat. Anthony Cafaro is just sitting there not willing to get his hands dirty like a simple commoner. Sam Covelli is trying to avoid the obstacles in his path as best he can. Denise DeBartolo York and Tom Humphries both look scared and look like they are trying to figure out which way the wind is blowing. Ed Muransky is scratching his head in bewilderment, Diane Sauer is just sitting there in an apparent daze. The only one's that look like they are doing the hard work of actually rowing the boat are Bruce Zoldan and Herb Washington. And then there is Jim Tressel standing there looking twords the future as others carry him to his destiny. To the artist well done you knowingly or unknowingly just explained Youngstown in one picture.

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10Nurse_Midlo(34 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Tressel will be YSU's last president.

The state is going to step in and close the place.

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11lovethiscity(169 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

koevolution...could you re-post that in English? Thanks.

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12paulydel(1607 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Jim Tressel is a leader. It doesn't matter if it was just football. He will be a win win for YSU because he will inspire the students and faculty alike.

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13redeye1(5669 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

koevolution What makes you think confederates are terrorists. ?
1 Maybe because they stand up for what they believe.
2 As far as cowards I will take them on my team anytime . Compare to arse kissing cowards who won't stand up for anything ( people like you )

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14gulfcoast(3 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Dear BoT,

I am writing to express my interest in the position of Head Football Coach of YSU. Since receiving my first degree at YSU in the early 1980s, I went on to earn a master’s and PhD from other top-tier universities. I understand how to get money from Washington (i.e., NIH-funded grants). I am an experienced health care clinician, administrator, academic, researcher and scholar.

As far as my fundraising skills, well, I am female and have maintained a nice figure over the years. I can bat my eyelashes as well as any woman. If I have one slight flaw it is that I have never thrown a football in my life. However, I don’t recall that as a requirement for the job, is it? I’m your gal, believe me! Make my old professors in Cushwa Hall proud to bring one of their own back home to roost. I am confident and eminently qualified to head YSU’s football team to a national championship!

Now, are there 2 or 3 quarters in a football game?

Dr. L.

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15prodgodq(172 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

"Wish the Vindi writer would have contacted the NCAA as to their thoughts on whether Tressel is even eligible to be the president of a university, as his sanctions state he must have nothing to do with college athletics until 2016. How would that work?"

Asking the NCAA to pass judgement on ethics is like asking a prostitute whether prostitution should be illegal.
The NCAA is one of the most hypocritical organizations on the planet.
Bad example.

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16papa1(711 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

tressel is a smooooooth talker and that's about his only qualification. he's a bs artist who singlehandedly, for the first time in history, brought shame and embarrassment to a great university. oh yeah, sigh him up, raise tuition and throw millions at him.

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17valleyred(1103 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

YSUForever, enough of your nonsense. John Kasich is not going to close YSU.

I do not know where on earth you get that wild idea, but it is ridiculous. Nothing he has done should lead anyone to believing that silly, radical, close-minded opinion that you continue to express on here.

I am in full support of Jim Tressel getting the job, but quit making a fool out of yourself with this nonsense that John Kasich wants to close YSU. Governor Kasich is doing a great job for our state and if he wants to allocate state higher educational funding based on graduation rates, then by God YSU better adjust and adapt to the new funding formula. I would much rather have my tax dollars going to schools that graduate more of our future leaders, than schools that get X number of students who start, only to see Y number of students graduate.

Graduation rates at YSU are a problem and is something the next President must address.

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18Attis(1134 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

After Tressel is crowned President of YSU he will perhaps pioneer a whole new approach to naming college heads in Ohio who have absolutely no academic qualifications but know their sports (and how to bend the rules). Let's have LeBron James as Prez of the University Akron or KSU. Should be a great fund-raiser too. I hear Bernie Kosar is looking for a job. Prez of Cleveland State University?

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19papa1(711 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

tressel is an icon to Buckeye Nation? Woody? absolutely!. Earle? you bet! john cooper? I don't think so. Jimbo? ah, no. Urb? he will be eventually. part of tressels time at osu will be bringing one of the greatest football players the valley has ever seen, Maurice claret, to Columbus and using him to win a national championship, who without Maurice they wouldn' have won. Maurice came from a hard scrabble, drug infested neighborhood. when one of his best friends died the powers that be told Maurice they would get him home for the funeral after he, Maurice, won the national championship for them. they lied to him and it was all downhill for Maurice from there. he wasn't monitored enough to make sure he wasn't going off the rails. they used him like a piece of meat and didn't give a damn what he did in his off the field time. a promising career was ruined for lack of caring. that's just part of jts' legacy at The Ohio State University.

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20handymandave(578 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Tressel is very qualified to run most football programs but he just doesn't have the qualifications to be president of the university. He's probably not qualified to remove an appendix either thats why he's not a surgeon.

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21georgejeanie(1535 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Typical Youngstown thinking. Just another good ole boy who gets in trouble outside the "Valley". Examples, Trafficant, Dan, Clarett. Then back to the valley as fine upstanding citizens. Wow, what a place, glad I got out before it becomes more of a laughing stock than it already is.

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22lemmingsfollowblindly(152 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Years ago YSU’s engineering program was listed among the top schools in the nation. I looked and its no longer in the top 100… When YSU became a big football draw in the red sweater vest years, football then became top priority for funding and so on. As I have heard others say “YSU lost its identity” really in part due to the success of Coach Jim and his program that has now waned and become nothing more than a money pit
Time to focus on education and job training not a pathetic football and basketball program….Hey anyone hear how the track or golf teams are doing?? For a fraction of the cost...

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23kurtw(1823 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Glad Koa's commenting again- love his (her) use of English. It's just like a riddle- you read it again and again trying to figure out a meaning- finally, you figure, hell, there isn't any- like a dog urinating on a fire hydrant. As long as he (she) feels relieved...

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24kurtw(1823 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Talking about "urinating on a fire hydrant"- if Youngstowner's feel "relieved" bringing in somebody like Jimbo Tressel to run YSU even though he isn't fit for the job- well, they did it before, they sent the first "Jimbo" into Congress and kept him there for many years even though his qualifications were negative- he was a criminal- and what does that tell you- we really haven't changed in all those years. We do it not because it's reasonable, but because we're relieved. Just like a dog urinating on a fire hydrant.

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25kurtw(1823 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Lemmings has a good comment- we should follow in the direction he suggests: " Time to focus on education and job training not a pathetic football and basketball program…" If we were smart someone like Dr Abraham- an accomplished technocrat in the Additive Manufacturing field- would be in the top three- not a sorry has been with a shady past like Jimbo Tressel.

By the way, the other day I saw Dr. Garg- YSU BOT head honcho- at one of our local supermarkets. He was in the produce section. I saw him testing lemons for fungus, tomatoes for rot, asparagus for blight- checking for all kinds of vegetable diseases- doing a good job of it for all that I could see (good Proctologist that he is)- and I couldn't help thinking- I hope he and his team mates do as good a job vetting the veggies running for the top YSU job. If it has to be a lemon, I hope it's a healthy one.

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26walter_sobchak(2722 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

lemmings point is absurd! The reason YSU had one of the top engineering schools in the nation was due to the industry that was located in the valley. The steel mills and the industry that supported it hired huge numbers of engineers. YSU had a great metallurgy department that was supported by the many steel companies. Mechanical and chemical engineers designed the rolling mills, production equipment, furnaces, etc. As that industry went away, so did the demand for engineering students and thus the reduction in the school. It had nothing to do with the rise of the football program.

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27WilliamP(70 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Only in Youngstown is it even possible that Tressel is a serious candidate. It's because of decisions like this that Youngstown is in the shape it is. Youngstown gets what Youngstown deserves.

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28billdog1(5942 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

lovethiscity, if the Tress is so great, why haven't these people hired him to run their business'?

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29kurtw(1823 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Love that last comment! I don't think Jeff has posted once- at least out of all his posts that I've read- where he hasn't brought in "Tea party Scum" and "far-right vermin" who infest our "beloved valley".

As if the Right had anything to do with ruining this area. All our problems stem directly from years of Single Party Control- by- The Democrat Machine- still in charge. Conservatives had nothing to do with it- if conservatives had been respected and listened to the area wouldn't be in the fix it's in. But, Jeff has his fixations- like Adolf. Heil Jeff! (I wonder if he has his own flag flying in front of his house? Sort of like, you know, a crooked cross- you know the one I mean...)

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30billdog1(5942 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Kurt, we are a republitard state, even though the demitards control are area. Our state one big giant quagmire. It isn't five cities that caused the mess in this state. It always amazes me how so many have the tunnel vision and think the five demitard cities (areas) of the state create all this mess. Look outside the door Kurt, there is more than that first step.

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31DSquared(1788 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Sorry billdog, You're boy Strickland dug the hole of debt that Kasich has had to dig out of! Thank God the rest of Ohio has a brain and doesn't follow NE Ohio's sleep walk through life! You need to get out and visit the real "Beautiful Ohio" that isn't tainted by bitter Liberals and their lack of vision.

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32billdog1(5942 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

LOL, you may want to go to the university website and read the job description.

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33billdog1(5942 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Then why do the REPUBLITARDS keep saying Obammy is ruining this country. He's just a PR man.

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34Seriouslee(149 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Wow Abe, The letters say it all, don't they? Tressel's is shallow and arrogant, no specifics, no understanding of the issues facing hiring ed. Nowhere else but NE Ohio would anyone make him a finalist based on that application.

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35Seriouslee(149 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

We are in complete agreement on this one, Abe. This BOT is dangerously incompetent and this fiasco is proof. Plus, they've deliberately stacked the search by putting "Tress" up against a candidate who is basically being run out of her own university and another who is likely going to Buffalo. Tressel is just using YSU to get the job he really wants (Akron) and we will be stuck with the worst of the three.

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36jmagaratz(189 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

note to "billdog" and "LOL".....

REPUBLITARDS are wrong about President Obama....

DEMLITARDS were right about the ussc appointee little bush.....

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37BlueSteel(49 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Columbus + Akron + Youngstown = The Bermuda Triangle of ignorance in OH-IO.

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38Seriouslee(149 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Abe, That's because Akron is the job he really wants and this bastion of character so revered by all is just using YSU for leverage or as a back up. The BOT has botched this search so badly they should be removed.

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39uptowngirl(139 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

I love the short memories of the writers. Sweet essentially pillaged the university. He spent a boat load of money trying to make money, yet his contributions to the university were weak. It seems that some writers are unaware that both the DeBartolo and Cafaro families have buildings named for them on the YSU campus which would indicated major donor status. The Board of Trustees seem incapable of doing a Google search of the finalists. I would be worried about the credentials of the BOT than worrying about the credentials of the next President.

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40walter_sobchak(2722 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Thanks for posting the application letters and CV's of the three finalists. In comparison between the letters Tressel submitted to the universities, it shows he is well aware of the problems facing UA. The letter to YSU is short on facts and relies on familial ties to Y-town which, while important, is not too critical. It is shallow to say the least. IMHO, it displays to me that Tressel knows the YSU job is his. I was very impressed with Gary Miller's letter and qualifications. He is a good second choice since the "money" wants Tressel.

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41Seriouslee(149 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Seems to me Miller is the best candidate but he's also a finalist elsewhere and if given the chance, he'll go to Buffalo. Because the media has so desperately fawned over Tressel, he knows he's second choice and will go where he is number one. The BOT tried to stack the search in favor of Tressel, who will go to Akron, Miller will go to Buffalo and we will be stuck with Cullinan, who the BOT was "shocked" to find out has huge problems at her home institution. Apparently the BOT has never heard of google, since most of the posters on here have been talking about it since the list was released. Tressel's letter sucked because he doesn't really want the job--its his leverage with Akron and his "safe school" in case he doesn't get the job he really wants. The whole thing stinks of incompetence and cronyism.

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42southsidedave(5199 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

The Public apparently has a short memory and cannot seem to recall the controversy surrounding Ohio State and Jim Tressel.

Tressel cannot be trusted with a football team, and now "fans" want to entrust an entire college to him?

BTW, what was his dissertation topic, oh forgot, he has no Doctorate Degree.

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43pulaskifarm(26 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

..............................................Mr Tressel,
Is doing us a favor by applying to our school!

He could get 1000 offers in a NY minute.

This is the chance to hire a world class administrator.

Welcome the prodigal son home.

Naysayers are blinded by their haughtiness.

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