By DENISE DICK | firstname.lastname@example.org
Youngstown State University trustees’ selection of Jim Tressel as the university’s next president met with approval, excitement and high hopes for the future across campus and the Mahoning Valley.
Trustees voted unanimously Friday morning to offer Tressel the job, and he accepted in principle, said Dr. Sudershan Garg, trustees chairman. Contract terms must be negotiated.
“The future is bright for YSU if all of us work together,” he said.
Tressel tweeted: “Excited about the opportunity at YSU! It’s all about student success. Going to miss all the wonderful Zips at UA.”
In a later statement, he said: “On behalf of Ellen and the entire Watson/Tressel family, we would like to thank Dr. Garg and the Youngstown State University Board of Trustees for the confidence they have demonstrated in us by their actions today. We are honored and privileged to accept the board’s offer, and we are humbled by this opportunity to return to the area and school that we deeply love.
“We look forward to working with the board, the faculty, staff, students and the entire
Mahoning Valley community to build on what has been more than a century of service and success at the university.”
A special trustees meeting is set for 6 p.m. Monday in the Tod Hall meeting room.
“Ellen and I plan to be on campus for that meeting. Until then, out of respect for the process, I will reserve any further comment, and we will celebrate the glory of commencement weekend for the wonderful graduates here at The University of Akron,” he wrote.
Allen Hunter, chemistry professor, believes Tressel is a great choice.
“I came here 22 years ago with a very negative opinion about the relationship of athletics in academics,” he said.
At that time, Tressel was head football coach. One of Hunter’s students, a star player on Tressel’s team, missed a quiz. Tressel didn’t allow the student to play that week.
“To me, that was like an earthquake,” Hunter said.
Tressel also has a backbone, he said, as well as the ability to set the vision and direction for the university and connect with people in the community. Fundraising is another important skill in a university president, he added.
“Tressel will be really good at that,” Hunter said.
Shawnese Belcher, a YSU sophomore from Youngstown, was also pleased with the news.
“I’m glad he’s coming back,” said the computer science major.
She believes his knowledge of the university and the community will be an asset.
Students Heather McSuley of Boardman and Matt O’Dell of Liberty, both senior exercise majors, and Gianna Marinucci, a sophomore secondary math-education major from Boardman, gathered outside of University Pizzeria on Lincoln Avenue on Friday morning, celebrating the end of finals.
Each of them also believes Tressel is a good choice for president.
“I was excited,” Marinucci said of her reaction. “He did a lot of really great things when he was here before, and I think he’ll be really good for our university.”
O’Dell says Tressel did great things as a coach, and he hopes he’ll be able to accomplish a lot as president as well.
“Everyone knows Tressel,” he said. “Hopefully, he’ll be able to improve enrollment rates and graduation rates.”
Ruigang Wang, assistant chemistry professor, says he’s excited about Tressel taking office.
“He has the ability to lead YSU, and also he knows YSU because he was at YSU before,” he said.
Trustees voted unanimously for the former coach, who led both Ohio State University and YSU to national championships in their respective divisions, to become the next president.
Dr. Garg said trustees believe Tressel is the best candidate for the job.
“Mr. Tressel has the personality and leadership skills, in addition to widespread community support, to dramatically raise YSU’s profile and prominence across Ohio and the nation,” he said.
Dr. Garg said the university’s attorneys looked into the show-cause violation imposed on Tressel when he was head coach at OSU, and that it shouldn’t have any bearing on his ability to perform as YSU president.
Nobody is perfect, the board chairman said.
“As long as you acknowledge it and move forward, you have to look at the positive aspects of the individual,” he said.
John Carey, chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, said in a written statement that the regents look forward to working with YSU’s new president.
“We look forward to working with President Tressel, and I know he will bring a great deal of enthusiasm to the position, the university and the region,” he said.
About five weeks ago, Youngstown Mayor John McNally met Tressel for a cup of coffee. Before that, McNally had only met the former coach twice.
“I came away very impressed from that meeting,” the mayor said.
They discussed establishing better interaction between the city and the university and the neighborhoods around the university and “making sure over time, there’s a seamless transition between downtown and the university campus,” McNally said.
McNally said he believed Tressel was interested in both the YSU and UA positions.
“In my heart, I believe he was hoping for YSU,” he said.
With the positions that Tressel has had at YSU, OSU and UA, he’s well-suited for a public position like university president, McNally said.
“He’s a good fit at this time,” he said.
Tressel, the executive vice president for student success at the University of Akron, was a finalist for president at both YSU and UA. UA Thursday opted for another candidate, clearing the way for YSU.
In a story published Friday night on cleveland.com, The Plain Dealer’s website, longtime Youngstown resident and former YSU adjunct professor Dan McCauley said several sources close to the search told him Tressel had withdrawn from Akron’s search Thursday afternoon.
YSU trustees announced at 3 p.m. Thursday that they would have an emergency meeting at 7:30 a.m. Friday.
The Plain Dealer said it is not known if Tressel was the front-runner at Akron, but UA trustees’s planned 2 p.m. executive session to discuss the presidential candidates took place Thursday, and they told media at 4:55 p.m. they would announce the new president at 5:45 p.m.
They named Scott Scarborough, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Toledo at that time.
The other two finalists for the YSU job were Gary L. Miller, chancellor of the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and Mary Cullinan, president of Southern Oregon University.
After meetings with the three finalists, the leadership of YSU unions endorsed Tressel’s candidacy.
The presidents of YSU’s four unions representing the faculty, police, classified employees and administrative and professional staff, issued a statement Friday:
“The union presidents would like to welcome Mr. Tressel to YSU as our next university president,” it says. “We expect that he will be an excellent ambassador and an effective fundraiser for the university. We believe he has an understanding of the past, is in a position to evaluate the present and will strive to create a future that brings us together as a well functioning, nationally recognized urban research institution. We look forward to the opportunity to work with Mr. Tressel in what we hope will be an exciting new beginning for YSU.”
Shortly after Randy J. Dunn, YSU’s short-term eighth president, announced that he was leaving for another job, community, business and union leaders, led by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13th, of Howland, launched a campaign supporting Tressel for YSU president.
They wrote a letter to YSU trustees endorsing the former coach and urging his appointment.
Ryan praised Friday’s decision to hire Tressel.
“This was a community-wide effort in which Democrats and Republicans, business and labor came together to change the trajectory of our communities’ future. This is another chapter in how, by coming together, we are writing the great comeback story of the Mahoning Valley,” he said in a news
release, adding “The challenges are many, but with our collective intellect, creativity and determination, we will meet these challenges and transform our region.”
Bruce Zoldan, president and CEO of B.J. Alan Co., was another leader in that campaign.
“I just bought my bottle of champagne,” he said.
Before he even starts working, Tressel already has started doing something sorely needed: Building the morale and excitement in the Mahoning Valley, Zoldan said.
Tressel’s return to Youngstown sends a message to others who have left the Valley, he said.
“One of the greatest coaches in college football came back to Youngstown, Ohio, in a different capacity,” Zoldan said. “I think he sends a message to come back to our Valley, and let’s make this a great place to come and to want to live and have opportunities. I commend the board — the YSU trustees — for making this decision, and I’m happy as a businessman in the Mahoning Valley.”
Tom Humphries, president and CEO of The Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber, who also signed the letter, praised YSU trustees’ decision.
“The board is to be commended for completing a thorough and expedited process to bring new leadership to the university,” he said in a news release.
“I believe they chose a person who will provide outstanding leadership to the university and will work in a united front with other Mahoning Valley business and community leaders to improve university’s performance, our students’ educational attainment and help grow our economy. I stand ready to work with Jim to propel our Valley forward in the months and years ahead.”
SUPPORT FROM LABOR
Glenn Johnson, president of United Auto Workers Local 1112 at the Lordstown General Motors plant, and Don Crane of the Western Reserve Building and Construction Trades Council, were among the labor leaders who joined the Tressel-for-president campaign.
Johnson pointed to Tressel’s leadership skills and good community stewardship as positives for the Mahoning Valley.
“He has the leadership ability it takes and he has the connections it takes to do the things necessary to take Youngstown State into the next chapter,” he said.
Crane said Tressel has the relationships both within the area and outside of it to lead YSU into the future.
“He has been so successful in the past in his career as a coach, and there’s a ton from that that he can apply to this position as well,” Crane said. “He has the skills to lead us down the right road.”