Trumbull commissioners: Tressel is no ‘Runaway Bride’

Staff report


The firm that conducted the search for outgoing Youngstown State University President Randy J. Dunn has agreed to do another search for free, but trustees haven’t decided how they will proceed.

Trustees met behind closed doors Thursday, talking to representatives of the firm AGB Search, but didn’t make any decisions.

Because Dunn announced his resignation after only seven months on the job, the firm will do another search at no charge to YSU. The university, though, still will have to pay for expenses. Dunn’s resignation is effective Aug. 16. YSU had spent nearly $109,000 in the search that resulted in Dunn’s appointment.

Meanwhile, Trumbull County commissioners have added their names to the list of people recommending that Jim Tressel become YSU’s ninth president.

“Not only is Jim Tressel a household name throughout Ohio, he has a following because of his ability to lead and inspire people he comes in contact with. His love of YSU and commitment is demonstrated by his $1 million donation to YSU several years ago. Will any of your prospects demonstrate that kind of commitment and allegiance to YSU?” the commissioners wrote in a letter to the YSU trustee board.

The commissioners said it is “unlikely that you will find a candidate with a better understanding of the Mahoning Valley, its organizations and institutions and more importantly its student body and faculty.”

Then the letter took a playful jab at the university’s current president, Randy Dunn, who is leaving at the end of this school year to become president of Southern Illinois University after just seven months at YSU.

“What are the risks of hiring another candidate?” the letter asked.

“A ‘Runaway Bride’ candidate,” for one.

Another candidate might also need “a long learning period which may not mature into a satisfactory chief executive,” or a “well-credentialed candidate lacking in the personal qualities needed to lead and inspire.”

Tressel is a former head football coach at YSU and Ohio State University, and he coached both teams to national championships. Tressel now is executive vice president of student success at the University of Akron.

Frank Fuda, Trumbull commissioner, said he’s known Tressel for years and sees him at Mahoning Valley Scrappers games, where he “always talks to the people in the stands.” A big question now, Fuda said, is whether Tressel is interested in the job.

On Wednesday, a group of Mahoning Valley business people, union leaders and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, wrote a letter to the trustees endorsing Tressel as president.

The man who hired Tressel as football coach at YSU, former athletic director Joe Malmisur, said he has not spoken to Tressel since before Dunn announced he was leaving, but he supports Tressel coming back to be president.

Malmisur said Tressel would create excitement. He said he is impressed by the variety of people in the area who have expressed their interest in Tressel’s becoming president, although he was quick to add he was sure those people will support whoever ultimately is named president.

Malmisur said he has told Tressel in the past he thinks he would be great for the job — and he is not talking much to him now because he does not want to put too much pressure on him.

“I can’t believe he wouldn’t be interested in the job,” Malmisur said.

YSU Trustee Harry Meshel said it will be up to the board to decide how to proceed, but if members of the community come to trustees with a suggestion, the board should listen.

Meshel said he doesn’t feel pressured by the letter from the business people.

Not everyone believes the method Tressel’s supporters are suggesting is the right way to go, however.

Christopher Barzak, a YSU English professor, said he has no strong feelings about who YSU’s next president should be, but “the way they’re going about their public campaign could taint their effort.”

The Mahoning Valley community has a history of corruption and back-room deals, Barzak said, so if Tressel is interested in the position and even if he applies, trustees conduct a search and select him, it could look like a ‘good old boy’ deal rather than an open and transparent process.

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