By David Skolnick
and Denise Dick
It wasn’t a yes, but state Rep. Robert F. Hagan said Jim Tressel didn’t say no when asked if the former football coach was interested in becoming president of Youngstown State University.
“He said, ‘There is a process that is very important that has to be followed,’” Hagan said.
Hagan, of Youngstown, D-58th, said he and state Rep. Nick Barborak of Lisbon, D-5th, spoke to Tressel at the State of the State address Monday in Medina.
Hagan and Barborak, among other officeholders, as well as local business and union leaders, are urging YSU to hire Tressel to replace Randy Dunn, who recently tendered his resignation as the university’s president.
Hagan said Tressel thanked him, Barborak and others for their support.
“He said, ‘I feel very strongly in the process, and it has to be followed,’” Hagan said about Tressel. “It’s significant that he didn’t dismiss it or said it didn’t interest him. He could have said, ‘No.’”
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, along with 31 business and union leaders sent a letter to YSU’s Board of Trustees on Feb. 19 urging them to hire Tressel, a former YSU and Ohio State University head football coach, as president.
That was followed by Trumbull County and Mahoning County commissioners as well as the Mahoning Valley’s state legislative delegation making the same recommendation to the trustees.
Tressel, executive vice president of student success at the University of Akron, hasn’t said publicly if he’s interested in the YSU job.
Numerous calls by The Vindicator during the past week, including Tuesday, to Tressel have not been returned.
Hagan said Tressel didn’t give him the impression that he wasn’t interested in the job, but also didn’t appear to be “champing at the bit on it. He emphasized twice about the process. There was a little bit of optimism.”
Dunn announced Feb. 17 that he was leaving after seven months as president to take the same job at Southern Illinois University. SIU’s student newspaper reported a day earlier on its website that Dunn was the leading candidate for the job.
Dunn’s resignation is effective Aug. 16, though he could leave before that if the board of trustees hires a replacement before that.
Talk of Tressel replacing Dunn started almost immediately after it was learned that the latter was resigning.
Chet Cooper, chairman of YSU’s academic senate, comprised of 70 faculty, 15 students and 15 administrators, said the YSU presidency is on the panel’s agenda for discussion next week.
“No matter who the next president is, I would expect the individual to come through a thorough and rigorous national search,” Cooper said. “I’m pretty sure I speak for the majority of the faculty.”
YSU trustees are to meet today and are likely to hire AGB, the same firm that conducted the search last time. Since Dunn resigned in less than a year, the firm will conduct the search at no charge.
Dr. Sudershan Garg, trustees chairman, said the search firm’s president has told trustees he’s confident a search will draw a quality pool of candidates. If that happens, trustees would like to have a new president in place in June.
If a quality pool of candidates doesn’t seek the post, trustees may opt for an interim president to serve while undertaking a longer search, he said.
“We don’t want to hire someone just for the sake of hiring,” the board chairman said.
Tressel resigned as OSU head football coach in May 2011 amid a scandal involving players’ receiving cash and tattoos for memorabilia. He was accused of withholding information from university officials and the National Collegiate Athletic Association investigators.
The NCAA prohibited Tressel from having direct involvement with a school’s athletic department until December 2016.
Hired by YSU in 1986 as the football team’s head coach, Tressel won four Division I-AA national championships in his 15 years there.
His first season at OSU was 2001 with the team winning a national title the next year. He spent a decade there.
After leaving for OSU, Tressel kept close ties with YSU.
In 2007, he and his wife, Ellen, along with his in-laws, Frank and Norma Watson, donated $1 million toward the construction of the Watson and Tressel Training Site (WATTS) indoor athletic practice field.
The four also donated $250,000 toward the construction of the Andrews Student Recreation and Wellness Center. The facility opened in 2005.