Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Gee: 'Flurry of activity' led to Tressel move
By Brian Bennett
Ohio State president Gordon Gee had publicly and rigorously backed football coach Jim Tressel, even after it was revealed that Tressel had lied about his knowledge of NCAA violations. Gee's support included his infamous comments in a March news conference when he said, "I'm just hopeful that the coach doesn't dismiss me."
Fast-forward to Memorial Day, and Tressel resigned under pressure. What changed?
Gee told the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises on Tuesday afternoon that the continued emergence of damaging new information forced the university to reverse course on its successful coach.
"We had the facts as we had them in our first news conference," Gee said while preparing to testify at the Ohio Statehouse on an unrelated matter. "... [The] decision made at the time was based on what we knew, number one, and number two, was based upon what was an incredible body of work as the football coach and as a university citizen.
"We have a process at the university in which we do not immediately make decisions. We try to be deliberate and that was the process. Two months later, I think there were a lot of additional facts, and I think there was also the reality that we were facing serious issues. And the coach realized that and made what I think is the best decision on behalf of the university, which was to resign."
Tressel's resignation came just hours before a Sports Illustrated article alleged a pattern of misdeeds under his watch. Other stories, including one in the student newspaper The Lantern, also contained troubling allegations. Gee said that "flurry of activity" and "accumulation of issues" made a change necessary.
Gee also said that Tressel was given a chance to defend himself from March to May.
"I think that it was important for us to give the coach an opportunity to make his case, and to also be able to engage in appropriate conversation regarding the mistakes he had made," Gee said. "I think snap judgments about issues are not in the best interest of the person. We don't do that with our students, we don't do that with our faculty, and we don't do it with our football coach."
Gee called the Tressel affair "a national black eye." The school president was not, in fact, dismissed by his football coach. But will the fall of that football coach also lead to the president's own demise?
"The university itself has not been damaged," Gee said. "Our fundraising is up, our student applications are up, but now we need to make our case on the national stage that it's a great university and when we stumble we take appropriate action to make sure we correct (those issues).
"But just remember, our university is doing very well. I live in the world of the university, which is a magnificent university doing very well. And I live in the world of football, in which we have problems we are addressing."