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YSU, UA: Tale of two institutions

Published: Sun, May 11, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

Jim Tressel, who was drummed out of coaching college football by the NCAA, was the finalist for president at Youngstown State University and the University of Akron.

Akron’s board of trustees concluded Tressel didn’t have the credentials to lead a four-year institution of higher learning with an academic vision.

By contrast, trustees at Youngstown State were so blinded by the national championship rings Tressel won as football coach at YSU and Ohio State that they didn’t even bother to fake a reason for naming him president.

Here’s what Dr. Sudershan Garg, board chairman and a prominent oncologist, said in a statement Friday morning after the trustees unanimously voted to offer Tressel the presidency:

“After fully examining each and every candidate and reviewing input from hundreds of individuals across the campus and the community, the Board of Trustees believes Mr. Tressel is the right individual at the right time to lead Youngstown State University. 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.”

This writer has known Dr. Garg for many years and has never heard him speak in tongues — until now.

Tressel, executive vice president for student success at Akron University, has the “personality and leadership skills” to raise YSU’s profile?

What profile?

Declining enrollment

An urban four-year institution with a declining enrollment, a growing budget deficit, low retention and graduation rates and an afterthought in Ohio’s higher education scheme?

Now, compare Dr. Garg’s statement with the comments from Atty. Richard W. Pogue, chairman of the board of trustees at Akron University and a prominent lawyer in the state, after Dr. Scott Scarborough, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Toledo, was named president:

“Dr. Scarborough clearly shares our vision for the University of Akron. We have confidence that he will help us advance our mission as a public research university committed to our students’ success, to creating new models for sustaining academic excellence, and to our role as a vital contributor to the regional economy.”

The three words that say it all are “public research university.”

Perhaps it’s unfair to compare statements from individuals who are not involved in the day-to-day operation of the universities. So, let’s look at what the faculties at both institutions had to say about the presidential search.

Dr. Steve Weeks, president of the Akron Chapter of the American Association of University Professors and a biology professor, offered the following observation after Dr. Scarborough’s appointment was announced:

“It’s nice to see that we’re all on the same page. It’s always nice to have the president come in with solid support. … To be honest, we were hearing lots of rumors that it was going to be Tressel. That was the only candidate that we deemed to be unacceptable. He just didn’t have the background at the moment.”

By contrast, the leadership of the Ohio Education Association chapter representing YSU faculty joined other union leaders in endorsing Tressel.

Here’s what their statement said:

“After having met with all three candidates and having attended most of the focus meetings, the three Union Presidents have decided to endorse Mr. James Tressel for University President. We are confident that Mr. Tressel is the one candidate who will continue to build and nourish our effort to establish an environment of trust, transparency, and open collaboration that we, as union leaders have worked hard to create. We believe that Mr. Tressel’s commitment to these efforts will be honored throughout his Presidency.”


The lie

Tressel is no longer permitted to coach college football because he lied to the NCAA when he said he was not aware of any football players at Ohio State exchanging much-sought-after football memorabilia for items of value, including tattoos.

Jim Tressel will soon be the face of Youngstown State University. What will people around the country, especially journalists, see?

If it’s up to his supporters, they’ll see a man who walks on water. (Wasn’t the last one who did that crucified?)


1kurtw(846 comments)posted 3 months, 1 week ago

"The three words that say it all are “public research university.” I like that. Ties in with Akron's leading role in polymer research. YSU could play the same role in additive manufacturing- but, instead of Science and Technology, we picked the Gridiron instead and not only that we brought in a leader who, because of corruption, wouldn't be allowed to coach even if he wanted to (has a much better paying job now). I just don't get it. What's wrong with us? Seems to me if you want to shoot a gun off for kicks, you should aim it up at the sky and not at your foot. Youngstowner's have been shooting themselves in the foot for as long as I can remember.

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2YSUguins(17 comments)posted 3 months, 1 week ago

Dr. Doom strikes again! I wondered for the last couple of days how Bert would put his negative slant to this one. How has the Vindicator let him spew his warped sarcasm for so many years? Is there any other newspaper in the free world that would hire this guy? I doubt it.

It's funny how Bertram has conveniently left out so many details and just blurts out his trash thoughts. Tressel has mastered the skills needed to be a president of a university in today's world. The NCAA investigation and subsequent ban was a joke. Bert also conveniently discounts that Tressel went through the same process as all of the other candidates. There was no behind the scenes coronation. Unfortunately for Tressel, because of his history at YSU and the widely publicized letter sent by all of the local business leaders, there is no way to stop Bert from putting some thoughts of collusion in people minds around here.

From what I have seen, he has done it all correctly and above board. He waited until the last day to apply at YSU, so as not to persuade others who wanted to apply from doing so. And he went through the process at both universities just as he was supposed to.

Akron wanted him as their president, but we beat them to the punch when we moved the process along so quickly. They were caught off guard and moved too slowly. No matter what their people are saying now to save face, his skill set is perfectly positioned to lead a university in this day and age.

I too, know Dr. Garg (probably much better than Bert). He is a man of incredible intellect and integrity. I trust that he would only hire Tressel for his qualifications and leadership skills. I genuinely believe that he would step down from the board before being told what to do by some mythical group of puppetmasters.

Will the Vindicator ever wake up and relieve its readers of this sarcastic little angry man? Probably not, because they know that some people read his column every Sunday morning to see what ignorant statements he will make that day.

Thank you YSU board for doing a great job this time. Welcome back Jim Tressel. YSU's future looks brighter today than in a long time.

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3ysuforever(56 comments)posted 3 months, 1 week ago

The Board of Trustees did the right thing by hiring the candidate with YSU ties and a true love for our Valley.Mr Tressel is going to stay because after Dunn its so important to not hire a carpetbagger.Mr Tressel got a raw deal at OSU and the NCAA penalty proved again how clueless that organization is.What bothers me the most about the hiring is the wingnuts with their cheap shots they make about about our Valley in general.Mr Tressel is a proud booster of the Valley and as YSU grad I could not be happier with our new president.As far as the posters who continue to demean our area ,put up your for sale signs and take off -thanks to Forbes magazines wonderful article about Youngstown more and more people will be looking to move to our area so you should have no problem selling your property so you can move to a Idaho compound with the rest of your kind.Jim Tressel is YTOWN proud and that's what our Trustees saw .Thank God they did not listen to the teabaggers who love to complain about anything that could bring positive news to the Valley.

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4badeepster(111 comments)posted 3 months, 1 week ago

Face it deScumbag, despite your ignorant pleas, YSU did what it should have and hired Tressel which will be a shot in the arm for the university and the community, which is bad news for you. Because once things start going well, your stupid anti-everything rants will have even less meaning than they do now. And Akron was about ready to hire him also, but he withdrew his name. Your irrelevancy around here just got that much greater.

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5lovethiscity(144 comments)posted 3 months, 1 week ago

Effectively LEADING a university has nothing to do with a "terminal degree" in some sliver expertise of an obscure, long dead, Babylonian sub-culture. But it has everything to do with with transforming YSU into a top level urban research university this community needs it to be.

Jim Tressel is a tested and proven LEADER. And I can not be more proud and excited he is YSU's next President.

And until the day that he proves undeserving of my support, I will do everything I can to make him the most successful President in YSU's history. And I know that is the universal sentiment of my peers.

I strongly suggest that the Vindicator take the same position.

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6Chessiedad(170 comments)posted 3 months, 1 week ago

UA got it right.....there were only three words that they needed to consider when deciding Tressels fate, "background" and "deemed unacceptable". Of course, "unacceptable backgrounds" have always been overlooked when choosing leaders in the Mahoning Valley. I re-read all of the recent "pro-Tressel" statements, and it was painfully obvious that no one could use words like "honesty" and "integrity" when gushing about his "profile". Of course the facts speak for themselves, but YSU chose to ignore them, instead opting for the "shiny object". Sad that this is the lesson passed on to the youth of this Valley.

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7Cindy1117(1 comment)posted 3 months, 1 week ago

I find the last paragraph of this article to be totally inappropriate.

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8mrblue(972 comments)posted 3 months, 1 week ago

Like the man or not, give him the benefit of the doubt. When the honeymoon is over and the work begins, then we will know if the choice was a good one.

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9devildog(96 comments)posted 3 months, 1 week ago

Wow.... Something is wrong with you Burt... Get help! You are consumed by negativity ..... But I guess it gets you the attention you need and keeps you employed.... I feel badly for you but I guess it works for you....for now anyway! You miss the bigger picture all the time because you are so angry! Good luck with that!

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10Millerh113(116 comments)posted 3 months, 1 week ago

Yes, Mr. Tressel is an outstanding leader --as a football coach. Yes, he is an outstanding speaker --of feel-good, Christian-heavy speeches ala Joel Osteen, and like Joel, a real charmer. Coaches dominate the leadership positions in our public schools -- principals, superintendents--now it seems with the hiring of Coach Tressel, that trend is making its way into higher education. Good luck, Mr. Tressel. You're going to need it.

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11hiramabif(11 comments)posted 3 months, 1 week ago

According to Bertram's last paragraph, YSU will now have "everlasting life."

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12Erplane(482 comments)posted 3 months, 1 week ago

Wow, Mr. de Souza, even your Biblical analogies are only half-baked. That same man who was crucified 2000 years ago, if I recall, was resurrected three days later.

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13HonestAbe(270 comments)posted 3 months, 1 week ago

Looks like many of the above comments are written by folks who might be writing with a influx of testosterone to their brains. It is fair game to question whether or not Tressel is qualified to be a university president. At least admit the trustees made an unconventional choice...I don't think there's another university president in the country today whose experience matches Tressel's. The staff, students, and faculty of Akron did not think he was qualified for the position of president...they didn't compare to Hitler for God's sake. Keep in mind Akron ASKED for the input of its constituents...whereas the board at YSU did not solicit anyone's opinion other than their own and perhaps a handful of wealthy community leaders. Also, the search process at Akron took 9 months...at YSU, the search was hastily completed in less than three. Does anyone really think that any other candidate was seriously considered at YSU? No one can say COACH Tressel didn't do a great job at YSU or OSU....but it's legitimate to question whether PRESIDENT Tressel will perform as well. In America, it's still OK to question authority. That doesn't make Bertram a hater.....

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14Chessiedad(170 comments)posted 3 months, 1 week ago

HonestAbe...you missed the mark with only one word in your last post.....replace "experience" with "inexperience" and I think you nailed it!

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15Millerh113(116 comments)posted 3 months, 1 week ago

Like him or not, everyone reads Bertram's Sunday columns. Nobody knows Youngstown better than Bert, except for our beloved Esther Hamilton, of happy memory, who knew the city inside and out. That makes him one of the Vindy's greatest assets, along with Joe Scalzo of course.

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16devildog(96 comments)posted 3 months, 1 week ago

No matter what the topic is.... He puts a negative spin on everything!

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17lovethiscity(144 comments)posted 3 months, 1 week ago

At the end of the day, Bert is just giving HIS opinion. Just like the drunk at the neighborhood bar has an opinion. And an equal right to express it. As does everyone in this country.

But, at least in my case, Bert isn't even remotely qualified for me to give his opinion any weight. I'll save that for the people who actually are successful building things and running things. And those folks are 100 percent in support of Jim.

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18Knightcap(693 comments)posted 3 months, 1 week ago

Somehow I don't see Tressel hob- nobbing around with the YSU elitists wearing an elbow patch blazer and smoking a pipe. He still be "the Vest".

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19HonestAbe(270 comments)posted 3 months, 1 week ago

Wow knightcap, have you actually been on a college campus in the last 40 years? I don't think I've ever seen anyone wearing one of those elbow patch blazers!!!!

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20Seriouslee(96 comments)posted 3 months, 1 week ago

LOL Knightcap, YSU elitist? Have you ever been there? Despite the easy argument everyone tries to make that anyone who objects to Tressel is a snobby elitist concerned only about a Ph.d, it's about lack of real academic experience. No amount of blather about how leadership is leadership, he's a motivator blah, blah, blah, makes up for that.
Let's say you had a candidate with two years of lightweight experience as say "VP of athletic success," but this candidate, maybe even a Ph.D, had gained his fame by leading the academic quiz bowl team to several national championships--would you let him run the football program?

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21Knightcap(693 comments)posted 3 months, 1 week ago

Seriouslee - "Let's say, as say, maybe". What about if? What if Tressel does a good job. Do we continue to throw sticks and stones? I'll give him a chance. If he starts failing I won't support him. I have a pitchfork, I know how to use it.

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22papa1(646 comments)posted 3 months, 1 week ago

hooray, ysus' joining the big ten!! it's all about football. let's pack the stadium. the only one whoever brought good headlines for Youngstown is back get your heads out of the clouds. his supporters couldn't care less about student enrollment or ysu's massive debt. it's all about tailgating, packing the stands and national attention. why can't people be satisfied with a great small college. are they starved for attention?

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23kurtw(846 comments)posted 3 months, 1 week ago

Bert is the guy everybody loves to knock- that's why he's been around so long- he pisses people off. If he bored his readers- put them to sleep- I'll bet Mark and Mrs J. would have canned him a long time ago- but as long as he keeps everybody itching to punch him in the nose for his views- that's great "job security" for him and it helps the Publishers sell Newspapers.

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24kurtw(846 comments)posted 3 months, 1 week ago

Talking about Mrs J.- I bumped into her the other day at HandyMan Hardware- we were leaving at the same time. I had never met her before (recognized her from the paper) and I went over and told her I read the Vindy daily and that I thought everyone was doing a great job (which I meant). She was delighted, shook my hand, and told me I had "made" her day.

She seems like a nice lady- very petite and well spoken- and when I looked her up on "Facebook" I couldn't believe her age (birth year 1921). And still running a newspaper. More power to her! Shows one of the keys to longevity is to stay active. Nice memory for me, I'm glad I went over and talked to her...

P.S. I wonder if she would have shaken my hand, if she knew some of the stuff I said on her Message Board?

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25papa1(646 comments)posted 3 months, 1 week ago

bert, I look forward to your future articles regarding tressels' job performance, good or bad.

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26billdog1(1119 comments)posted 2 months ago

Mixed feelings about the hole thing. I believe the university needs a true leader that isn't afraid of some the powers that exist at the university. Knows who some of the lousy players are, and can bring a cohesive long term interest to the university. Some that set in some of the upper management positions see the university as their personal little power-play. It's time for them to go, go anywhere but to the university everyday. They have no long term interest in the longevity of the institution. They are the vary problem the university has today. They drain it dry like a hole in a dike. He knows them, knows what they are about and knows they no longer belong. Many of us that are alumni will be watching. We love YSU and love what it USED to be. Get the dinosaurs out and bring in fresh people with long term interests that understand the university needs rescued, healed, and given a new breath of life. These prehistoric bloodsuckers can retire and should retire. Save the institution by booting the geriatric phonies.

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