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Business and union leaders want Jim Tressel as YSU president

Published: Thu, February 20, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

Recruit ex-football coach for YSU’s next president, 31 leaders urge trustees



By Denise Dick



Jim Tressel as the next president would score a touchdown for Youngstown State University, a group of supporters says.

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

“As longtime supporters of Youngstown State University, we are writing to offer our full and unequivocal support behind Jim Tressel to be the next president of Youngstown State University,” the letter says. “We hope that the board considers moving expeditiously to make this happen. We all have known Jim personally for many years and strongly believe that he will bring all of the skill and experience needed to lead Youngstown State University forward.”

The presidency is up for grabs after Randy Dunn, appointed last July, this week announced his resignation, effective, Aug. 16, to assume the presidency of Southern Illinois University.

Tressel, a former YSU and Ohio State University football coach, who led both teams to national championships in their respective divisions, serves as University of Akron executive vice president of student success.

The letter says Tressel understands the importance of YSU’s relationship to Youngstown, Warren and surrounding communities as well as America Makes (additive manufacturing), the Youngstown Business Incubator and the role of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in the area’s future economic initiatives.

“He knows the importance of university collaborations with the private sector and local workforce,” the letter says. “And 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. Given the current circumstance, we hope you would consider making an offer quickly so that we can move forward and build upon the great progress that has been made in the Mahoning Valley...”

Tressel couldn’t be reached, but a spokeswoman at UA said that Tressel “is extremely busy and focused on his role” at that university “where he leads strategic campaigns to attract, recruit and ensure the success of our students.” She said it would be inappropriate for she or Tressel “to comment on any outside inquiries at this time.”

Ryan said he doesn’t usually get involved in such issues, but he got calls from others and he had been thinking about it as well.

“This is really an opportunity for us to turn lemons into lemonade here,” he said.

Many changes are happening at YSU, Ryan said.

“This is the opportunity of a lifetime to get someone of Jim Tressel’s caliber,” the congressman said.

Ryan said the defining attribute of a university president is to be a strong leader and “he’s a winner — and you win with people.”

Ryan believes Tressel would be able to strengthen enrollment by attracting students from all over the country and to bolster fundraising.

“Imagine the alumni meetings around the country if Jim Tressel shows up,” Ryan said. “They’d go from 20 people there to 200 people there. People who have never donated to YSU will now want to donate money because of the skills, and the intelligence and the vision he brings to Youngstown State.”

Dr. Sudershan Garg, YSU trustees board chairman, said Tressel’s name was suggested as a presidential contender last year, but Tressel didn’t apply.

If Tressel does apply, his application would go before the board. “I wouldn’t be unhappy about it,” Dr. Garg said. “I’ll put it that way, the more the merrier.”

Bruce Zoldan, president and chief executive officer of B.J. Alan Co., is among Tressel’s backers.

“He’s a proven winner,” Zoldan said. “He’s driven to success. He grew up in a university environment. His dad was at Baldwin-Wallace. He spent many years working at YSU and OSU and now he’s working at the University of Akron offices. He has a tremendous amount of experience.”

Besides being a great football coach, Tressel is a great motivator who immediately would be accepted by the community, Zoldan said.

“He brings the Camelot effect,” he said.

Zoldan doesn’t believe YSU should go through another search, saying it should hire Tressel outright.

He said a group of people is backing Tressel to be the next president of University of Akron as well.

“In our opinion, it would border on criminal to let the University of Akron take a son of Youngstown as their president,” Zoldan said.

He said Tressel is cautious about publicly saying what he wants.

“My gut opinion — he would take it,” Zoldan said of the YSU presidency.

Sam Covelli of Covelli Enterprises is member of the Tressel for president camp.

“Jim Tressel is a terrific person and whatever he does, he’s going to be terrific at it,” he said. “He’s a brilliant guy and he loves Youngstown. I’ve talked to several leaders in the community and everyone felt the same way. We’d love to have him back. He’s a legend in the community and a good person.” Covelli said Tressel would be a good president who helps with fundraising and who gets the community involved in the university.

Contributor: Vindicator sports writer Joe Scalzo


1formerdemliberal(182 comments)posted 7 months ago

"Ryan believes Tressel would be able to strengthen enrollment .......and bolster fundraising." (As I have mentioned previously, Tressel = YSU$$$. Educational quality? Nah.).

“I’ll put it that way, the more the merrier.” (Shut up, Dr. Garg and do your job, period.)

Besides begging for a Tressel coronation, I wonder how many of the Tressel 32 (including Mr.Ryan) took into account the consequences a public letter on the perceived impartiality of an internal university presidential selection process. This letter puts the trustees in a unenviable lose/lose/lose/lose situation. If Tressel is hired, another message will be sent to outsiders that it is political/union/big money business as usual at YSU, especially with names such as Ryan and Cafaro involved with the Tressel effort. If Tressel is not hired, suspicions of trustee incompetence to attract a high profile leader to YSU will grow. Third, Akron has already beaten YSU to the punch by proactively providing an administrative vehicle to justify his ultimate ascendance to the Akron presidential post. The odds of Jim selecting a 13,000 student school for a 30,000 school with a higher national profile may not be as favorable as one would think. Fourth, any perceived external support for a potential candidate may discourage other competent educational leaders throughout the country to apply for the presidential post.

Politics are certainly involved in a university presidential selection, particularly at state schools with public employee unions. However, most of these efforts occur behind the scenes and not as openly as the Tressel 32 advocates. The Tressel 32 are treating this presidential search as the equivalent of hiring a football coach. It is NOT. The process is still subject to equal opportunity laws and accepted vetting of candidates by designated university representatives, not mob rule.

I have agreed in the past with the notion that Jim Tressel is an ideal candidate to head YSU in the future. However, I strongly disagree with overtly courting Tressel with a public letter that simultaneously advocates circumventing a viable selection process and appears to strong arm university trustees in doing the will of the big fish in this little pond of the world.

And to Congressman Ryan, stick to what you do best and get your nose out of university affairs. Show off your pretty face but do nothing, continue to be a puppet for local and national Democratic and union interests, and sound intelligent but say nothing. Or try fixing Obamacare.

Jim Tressel has all of the qualities needed for today's college presidents. He's a smooth talking used car salesman who could talk an old lady into buying a Mack truck. Need more evidence. Look at how his aura has area business and union leaders fawning over each other just to touch his sweater vest.

Let the coronation begin, consequences be damned.

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