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Let’s not enthrone Tressel

Published: Sun, February 23, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

Thirteen months ago, in the midst of the campaign on behalf of Jim Tressel for the presidency of Youngstown State University, the following headline appeared in this space: “Tressel could lead a Y-juco.”

The column argued that if the public believed YSU was a glorified junior college (juco) — community college — then Tressel would be perfect as president.

On the other hand, if the public believed YSU was on the cusp of academic significance, then the former football coach at YSU and Ohio State was not the man for the job.

Tressel, whose fall from grace at Ohio State is now a significant part of his resume, ultimately notified the board of trustees that he wasn’t interested in succeeding Dr. Cynthia Anderson, who stepped down after three years.

But that has not dissuaded his supporters, who are once again making a pitch on his behalf.

Dunn’s departure

The presidency of YSU will be vacant on Aug. 16 — or sooner — when Dr. Randy Dunn leaves for Southern Illinois University. Dunn took over from Anderson on July 15, but just a couple of months into his assignment began contemplating a move to greener pastures.

Dunn’s leaving has angered many Mahoning Valley residents. They rightly accuse him of disloyalty and a breach of trust.

YSU’s trustees have been reluctant to publicly criticize the president for not giving them any warning about his intentions and for leaving the university high and dry.

Against that backdrop, the campaign on behalf of Tressel has been launched with great intensity.

Last week, Congressman Tim Ryan and 31 other prominent residents of Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties sent a letter to the trustees urging the appointment of one of the most popular individuals in the Valley.

Some of the names on the list are easily recognizable, others not so. But the fact remains that each of them is a long-time supporter of YSU, in general, and Tressel, in particular.

Indeed, if several of the signees of the letter are to be judged by their wealth, it is clear that money is the root of the campaign.

Trustees looking over the list could discern the underlying message of the Tressel-for-president push: We have the financial wherewithal to assist the university in dealing with its fiscal crisis, but we want our man at the helm.

Perhaps that’s reading too much into the letter sent by Ryan et al, but it’s no secret that the well-heeled advocates did not accumulate their wealth by being milquetoasts. They are unrelenting when it comes to achieving their goals.

Such single-minded intensity is hard to ignore.

But while the letter to the trustees is unwavering in its support of Tressel and, in fact, urges the board to act expeditiously, caution is advised.

The million-dollar question (or whatever the appropriate amount) is this: How will Tressel’s departure from Ohio State after he was found to have lied to the NCAA affect his credibility as a university president?

He is currently vice president for strategic engagement at the University of Akron, and there are reports that he is being considered for the presidency of that institution.

His violation of NCAA rules while Ohio State’s football coach does not appear to have affected his standing at Akron. Indeed, he is being hailed for securing a lot of money from U of A supporters to fund the programs he has developed to promote student success.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that Tressel is making a name for himself on campus and has established a rapport with members of the board of trustees.

Cause for concern

That relationship is cause for concern for those advocating his appointment to YSU’s top job. Hence, they’re pushing for a prompt decision by the trustees.They contend that Tressel’s ability to raise money is exactly what YSU needs.

But, does the urban, open-access institution that is under pressure from Columbus to improve its academic standards benefit from having a president who is not from the ranks of acaddemia?

Finding the best and the brightest individual to serve as provost will address the university’s academic needs, the pro-Tressel forces will argue.

A debate over the future of YSU is timely and necessary.

There should not be a coronation of Jim Tressel.


1kurtw(1019 comments)posted 1 year ago

It's nothing more than a "Dog and Pony Show"- this ongoing search for the "next" Y.S.U. President. People in this town- who have real problems to worry about are getting tired of reading about this. Why don't they just look for somebody qualified within their own ranks (like Cynthia Anderson) and get on with it. It's not that big a deal- Y.S.U. is not a Mayor Corporation like GM or Ford- how difficult can it be? Those companies- like all all major companies- ROUTINELY elevate someone from within their own ranks as CEO- why is a University (especially a small one like Y.S.U.) any different?

Find somebody local who knows how to run a medium sized organization and pay them a reasonable salary- 100 Grand or so, no more than that- and you're done. The idea of paying somebody $340.00 plus housing and a free car to run an organization the size of YSU is obscene and it's an insult to the taxpayers and the students who struggle to pay tuition.

As for Tressel- everything I read about him- that scandal down in Columbus, etc- suggests he's another "Jimbo" like Traficant- a guy not to be trusted. If the local "Fat Cats" like him so much why don't they offer to chip in to help pay for his exorbitant salary? It would take a load off the taxpayers and the tuition paying students.

P.S. Another thing I don't understand- if you- Bertram- and the Vindy are so concerned about Youngstown- why don't you offer a reasonable alternative to the Y.S.U. "Dog and Pony Show", i.e. Find somebody Local- like Cynthia Anderson- to run the place and be done with it- and spare us all the aggravation.

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2author50(1121 comments)posted 1 year ago

Whether we like it or not - - College in the year 2014 is all about the money. The quicker Mr. Tressel is made King of YSU the better.

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3Millerh113(158 comments)posted 1 year ago

Tressel is a coach. Albeit a darn good one. But a coach first, last and always. And coaches are always looking for coaching jobs. Moreover, he does not have the qualifications to be a college president. Let him get a PhD, do scholarly research, and publish articles in the professional journals and thereby gain the respect of those whom he will lead -- namely the faculty and students. YSU deserves an educator as its president, one with experience and a proven record in the academic world.

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4papa1(700 comments)posted 1 year ago

tressel was paid 3-3.5 million as head coach at osu. and he loves coaching football. in my opinion he's waiting out his five year suspension to coach the fbs level and will find (if he wants) another chance to coach at a top tier college program. to go from crazy money at something he has a passion for to what amounts to chump change as a college president at ysu isn't even realistic. he may be very academically inclined, but he's not stupid.

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5polhack(129 comments)posted 1 year ago

Duhtruth and millerh113 are on the money, or more precisely, the qualifications for the money. An old business saw states that the way to ruin a great salesman (Tressel) is to make him a sales manager ( university president). Leading a group of academics is a very different thing from lighting a fire under a bunch of green teens and twenty somethings. Tressel does have powerful friends. With or without his consent, I'd bet those friends asked our Cracker Jack Congressman why he hasn't exercised his political clout (the campaign for which they ponied up the cash to win) to help their friend. As always in politics, follow the money.

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6HenryTheBear(23 comments)posted 1 year ago

People like to criticize Tressels fallout at Ohio State but never talk about the reason why. At the end of the day Tressel was loyal to his players and commitmented to the program. He was willing to stick his neck out and fall on the sword to protect his players. Those kind of actions are respectable in my book. We as a region need to get over this idea that it's acceptable for talent to leave this area or even attract it. It would be a disservice to this community to allow talent like Tressel to stay or even advance at Akron. You want to talk academia, the pro vost runs the academics at the university

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7HenryTheBear(23 comments)posted 1 year ago

Committed *

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8papa1(700 comments)posted 1 year ago

tressel stuck his neck out for his players? no, he stuck his neck out for purely selfish reasons. tressel knew he had the talent to make a run at the national championship in the coming season and did not want these players suspended. he did not report these violations as required and thus gave a black eye to the university, the football program, and the players. in addition, players who were innocent were punished by not being eligible for a bowl game or a chance to win a national championship after an undefeated season. what tressel did was despicable and will never be forgiven by true buckeye fans.

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9HenryTheBear(23 comments)posted 1 year ago

hmm maybe that's my problem, im not a buckeyes fan so I am not biased. Your comment is too subjective for me to respond. I'd rather debate facts not emotions.

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10kurtw(1019 comments)posted 1 year ago

Excellent comment by Bluesteel- I knew Tressel was "ethically challenged" but I did not know the full extent of it. It underlines again the stupidity of looking for a Superstar or Miracle Worker ("Presidential Search" Baloney) when all you need is a competent administrator (one paid a reasonable annual salary- not a half Mill)- preferably one with a track record of service to the University- like Cynthia Anderson.

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11kurtw(1019 comments)posted 1 year ago

In all the posts about this issue- Leadership at Y.S.U.- I think I'm the only one who raises the Central Issue: Why are Universities any different from companies in the private sector? Major corporations- like GM or Ford- Routinely bring up as CEO somebody from within their own ranks who has served the company- loyally- for many years. They don't (unless they're in trouble) set out on an elaborate hunt- "Presidential Search, etc"- to find somebody to lead them. They look for somebody who knows the company inside out and has LOYALTY to it. Why are Universities any different?

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