By Carol Biliczky
Beacon Journal staff writer
Jim Tressel’s leap to the presidency at Youngstown State leaves many bystanders asking: Why didn’t he land the similar job at the University of Akron, where he already serves as a top administrator?
If anyone knows for sure, no one is saying.
But faculty, department chairmen and even student representatives likely played a key role in persuading trustees to hire Scott Scarborough, provost of the University of Toledo, for the top job at UA. His appointment was announced at a hastily called media conference Thursday.
YSU offered Tressel its president’s job Friday morning.
“A president needs to have a deep understanding and appreciation of the norms and values and practices of the academic world,” said UA law professor Bill Rich, president of the Faculty Senate.
The UA campus had been rife for weeks with rumors that Tressel had the inside track for the job.
“The general feeling was that Tressel was the golden child,” said Steve Weeks, a biology professor and president of the Akron chapter of the American Association of University Professors.
Only at UA two years, Tressel already had been promoted to oversee the nonacademic and nonathletic sides of the house and was one of two top lieutenants for retiring President Luis Proenza. He is well-liked.
“There seemed to be strong support for Mr. Tressel within the board,” Rich said.
Weeks said faculty were worried not that Tressel didn’t have a doctorate or that he had left Ohio State for lying to the NCAA about player infractions. It was his lack of experience.
Faculty was one of six constituent groups organized to “advise” the trustee search committee. Each met with the finalists, then with trustees during an executive session of almost six hours Monday.
The student representatives also went for Scarborough, Weeks said.
Weeks wasn’t among the six faculty members advising trustees, but said he was told they were taken aback at the strong opposition.
Dick Pogue, UA’s trustee chairman, and Dr. Sudarshan Garg, chairman of YSU’s trustees, said they did not speak to each other about their competing interests in Tressel.
Pogue declined to comment on UA’s deliberations or if he reached out to Tressel after the Monday meeting to tell him of the flagging support.
The AAUP surveyed its members: Weeks said 217 of 675 full-time faculty responded in one day, with 81 percent opposed to hiring Tressel and 7 percent in favor.
The AAUP planned to forward that information to the trustees and Tressel, hoping to sway him to focus his interest toward YSU. That was not to be. Neither the trustees nor Tressel got the survey.
On Thursday, UA trustees met again in private for almost four hours and emerged to endorse Scarborough. The UA search lasted nine months.