YSU, UA: Tale of two institutions

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?)

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