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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(1823 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months 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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2Letstryagain(218 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Logic appears to be in short supply for the pages of Youngstown's daily.

One institutions failure to select a candidate does not disqualify the candidate from being an appropriate selection at another institution.

Dr. Weeks comment "That was the only candidate that we deemed to be unacceptable" must be viewed critically in that the "we" represents the Akron Chapter of the American Association of University Professors - not the University of Akron Board of Trustees. It is important to remember that while the unions representing the employees of the respective universities are integral to the institutions operation, they do not run the universities.

In fact, there is nothing noted in your commentary that suggests that Jim Tressel, was not the first pick of the University of AkronTrustees. More importantly however, even if he was the first pick of the University of Akron Trustees, that does not offer support, or detract from the YSU's decision to select Jim Tressel.

It is time for the community to support our strengths and hold on to the promise of change. Youngstown State University, in addition to its #1 goal of providing post secondary education is critical to the ongoing development of the Mahoning Valley. By extension, that same influence falls on the leadership of the university.

Malcolm Caldwell, the author of several best sellers writes in his book (The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference) "“The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.”

It is time for this community to consider Jim Tressel's selection as President of YSU as the University's, and the Valley's "Tipping Point".

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3YSUguins(19 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months 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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4mishmash(333 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

2 separate contributors to ESPN had already taken potshots to YSU by 6:00pm on Friday and more over the weekend.

Every stumble will be a laughing Bumble across the country.

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5badeepster(124 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months 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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6lovethiscity(169 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months 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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7Chessiedad(379 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months 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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8Cindy1117(1 comment)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

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

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9Letstryagain(218 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Cindy, inappropriate is a bit soft, but this type of comment is not a surprise.

If anyone is interested in an opinion from another journalist 60 miles Northwest of Youngstown, check out www.cleveland.com.

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10mrblue(1175 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months 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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11Millerh113(217 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months 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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12Letstryagain(218 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Honest Abe:
You make some good points, not only is it ok to question authority, it is good to question authority, in a rational, logical, thoughtful and measured manner.

There are a lot of details we don't know, and a lot of assumptions that are being made. The end of your previous statement regard Bertram being a "hater" struck me, and caused me to review the previous posts.

Previous comments include the following direct representations of Bertram:

"I wondered for the last couple of days how Bert would put his negative slant to this one."

"It's funny how Bertram has conveniently left out so many details and just blurts out his trash thoughts."

"Bert also conveniently discounts that Tressel went through the same process as all of the other candidates."

"Will the Vindicator ever wake up and relieve its readers of this sarcastic little angry man?"


"Face it deScumbag, despite your ignorant pleas..."

"Because once things start going well, your stupid anti-everything rants will have even less meaning than they do now"

"Your irrelevancy around here just got that much greater."


"You are consumed by negativity "

"You miss the bigger picture all the time because you are so angry!"

-- devildog

You see, not one of the comments in today's posting is about anyone being a "hater". There are a lot of other descriptors like angry, and irrelevancy, but nothing about being a hater.

This is just a guess, but the use of the descriptors, and the motivation behind most of the respondents is not about this commentary, but about the many that have been read over the years.

Maybe this commentary is yet another "tipping point".

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13Chessiedad(379 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months 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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14Millerh113(217 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months 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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15lovethiscity(169 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months 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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16Seriouslee(149 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months 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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17papa1(711 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months 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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18kurtw(1823 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months 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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19kurtw(1823 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months 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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20papa1(711 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

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

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21billdog1(5942 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month 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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