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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(1266 comments)posted 1 year, 1 month 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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2badeepster(120 comments)posted 1 year, 1 month 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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3Chessiedad(300 comments)posted 1 year, 1 month 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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4Cindy1117(1 comment)posted 1 year, 1 month ago

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

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5mrblue(1136 comments)posted 1 year, 1 month 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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6Millerh113(173 comments)posted 1 year, 1 month 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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7Chessiedad(300 comments)posted 1 year, 1 month 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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8Millerh113(173 comments)posted 1 year, 1 month 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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9Seriouslee(138 comments)posted 1 year, 1 month 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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10papa1(711 comments)posted 1 year, 1 month 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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11kurtw(1266 comments)posted 1 year, 1 month 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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12kurtw(1266 comments)posted 1 year, 1 month 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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13papa1(711 comments)posted 1 year, 1 month ago

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

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14billdog1(3227 comments)posted 1 year 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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