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Jim Tressel applied to be president of University of Akron

Published: Sat, March 22, 2014 @ 12:09 a.m.

Ex-OSU coach 1 of 19 seeking presidency

By David Skolnick



In a Jan. 25 letter to the University of Akron’s board of trustees, Jim Tressel proposed he serve as president on an interim basis, contending that it “may take up to two years” to find a permanent replacement.

Exactly a month later, Tressel, who serves as the university’s executive vice president for student success, wrote the trustees that he would be interested in the job without any mention of an interim position.

In that Feb. 25 letter, Tressel wrote: “If I am selected as UA’s next president, I will do my level best to forge a great partnership with UA faculty to lead this university to a new era of excellence in the areas of fiscal stability, academic quality and completion excellence, and alumni and community pride.”

He added that he is “confident that I am the right leader to bridge the transition from [university President Dr. Luis] Proenza’s accomplished 15-year tenure to UA’s new era of excellence. Put simply, I believe I am the right leader for this time.”

The university provided a list Friday of the 19 people who applied for the presidency to various media organizations, including The Vindicator, that had made requests for letters of interest from those seeking the job.

With the UA presidential position being vacated June 30 with the departure of Proenza, and the sudden resignation announcement Feb. 17 of Randy Dunn as Youngstown State University president — his last day was Friday — Tressel’s name has come up as a replacement for both.

Talk of Tressel’s returning to YSU, where he served as its head football coach for 15 years before leaving in 2001 for the same job with Ohio State, began almost immediately after Dunn announced he was leaving YSU.

Dunn was hired in June 2013, and resigned to be president of Southern Illinois University. Ikram Khawaja, provost and vice president for academic affairs, will be interim president until his planned June 30 retirement.

Spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, Mahoning Valley political, business and labor officials have urged Tressel to apply for the YSU job and have asked its board of trustees to hire the former college football coach as the university’s president.

Through a UA spokeswoman, Tressel declined Friday to comment to The Vindicator about either job.

Ryan, of Howland, D-13th, said he was not surprised Tressel applied for the UA post.

“He’s got to cover all his bases, and Akron is a great place,” Ryan said. “I want him to be in Northeast Ohio. We can’t lose a guy with this talent and skill set. We need to do everything to keep him.”

Ryan said he didn’t know if Tressel is interested in the YSU post.

“He’d be a great fit for Youngstown,” Ryan said. “We’re in a very unique situation, and he would bring stability [to YSU]. He knows the community and the players. If he wants to apply to Akron, we’ll support Coach Tress. If he wants to come to YSU, we’ll support Coach Tress.”

Bruce Zoldan, president and chief executive officer of B.J. Alan Co. fireworks and one of the business leaders pushing to get Tressel hired to run YSU, said, “Jim will probably accept the first serious offer for the presidency he gets. ... He has to explore all his options. My hopes are that [the YSU] board does the right thing, moves quickly and makes an offer.”

Zoldan said he believes Tressel is “absolutely interested in coming here. I’ve talked to him multiple times, and nothing he’s said makes me believe otherwise.”

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 NCAA investigators.

The NCAA prohibited Tressel from having direct involvement with a school’s athletic department until December 2016.

UA hired Tressel in May 2012 as vice president of strategic engagement, and promoted him in December 2013 to his current position as executive vice president for student success.

On Aug. 7, 2013, Proenza announced he would step down as Akron’s president, effective this June 30.

The board began discussing a successor shortly after, said Eileen Korey, UA’s chief communications director.

The number of applicants could grow as “it’s still an open process,” she said.

But UA expects to have finalists visit the campus as soon as next month for interviews.

Of the 19 applicants, only four, including Tressel, don’t have doctorate degrees. Of those four, three have masters of business administration degrees, while Tressel has a master of arts degree in education, which he received in 1977 from UA.


1redvert(2239 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

ysuforever, i would think that you would choose to smoke some good stuff but nooo!

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2youngstownmom12(3 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

What I dont understand is how people in this area dont see the forest for the trees. This man is crooked. He cheated and did illegal things while at YSU, did them at OHIO State that got him FIRED and now you want him as YSU President, REALLY? Everyone complains we need to clean up the corruption in this area, but welcome it when it comes slithering in....AMAZING

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

....always fun to visit the message board on an article like this!
As if corruption was exclusive to Youngstown.
College athletics is one of the most competitive professions in the country, regulated by one of the most bureaucratic, hypocritical legislative bodies in existence, where the definitions of "crooked" and "illegal" are obscure at best.
With all the bitterness and anger expressed by some of the people in this area, It's ironic that they seem to be incredibly naive at the same time, looking at the world of today with the rose colored glasses of a hypothetical past that was just as corrupt as the world they live in today.
I don't know Tressel peraonally. But based on the available material about him, the "crimes" he committed while at YSU and OSU are tame in comparison to some of the excesses seen at other universities.
Does that make him better? I don't think it really matters. What matters here is the direction that the university wants to take. If YSU wants to be a football power, then they're going to have to accept some of the consequences that come along with it. That means hiring people like Tressel. It's as simple as that.

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4southsidedave(5189 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

From football coach to college president, only in America.

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5lovethiscity(169 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Just out of curiosity, why does this community give any deference to Bruce Zoldan? I'm fairly knowledgeable about community affairs and he is a non-entity in terms of charitable giving. He really doesn't employ that many people locally. His product is illegal to use in most states. Its manufactured in China. And the hockey team...well has any one out there even gone to a game?

Why would we care who he wants to be the YSU president? Why did the Vindicator even ask him for a comment?

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6youngstownmom12(3 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

prodgodq...Just wondering, because what he did is mild in context with the national average, but does that make him innocent? Yes what he did is no where near as bad as others, but is that the kind of person we want running the university; someone who is just not quite as corrupt as the next one. We need to start making our city leaders be held to a higher standard than what we are now if we want a better city to live in. They need to start leading us by example not hot air.

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7prodgodq(172 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Hi youngstownmom12:

My point was this: What does the university want to do? Do they want YSU to be a football power? Or are other aspects of the university more important? If the university wants to be consistently successful in football, they're going to have to hire people like Jim Tressel.
Corruption is a relative term in college athletics and highly dependent on who is making the definition.
I certainly understand your concern, and everyone wants our leaders to be free of corruption. Unfortunately, no one is immune from temptation. Anyone can forget themselves under stress, and all it takes is one mistake to ruin a reputation.
What I find so ironic about the people who accuse Tressel of being a crook is that they are just as likely to be bending the rules in their own jobs as he did in his. I'm not defending his actions, just pointing out the realities of college athletics.
What it comes down to is that the university needs to make a decision as to its future direction.

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