SBD/May 31, 2013/Colleges

Ohio State President Issues Apology After Disparaging Comments Made Public

Gee apologized for the comments made about Catholics, Notre Dame and the SEC
After it was made public on Thursday that Ohio State Univ. President E. Gordon Gee had "lobbed some unkind words" at Catholics, Notre Dame, the SEC and two other colleges, "reaction was swift," according to a front-page piece by Binkley & Smith Richards of the COLUMBUS DISPATCH. Gee has "apologized for the remarks he made at the Dec. 5 meeting of the university’s Athletic Council." University officials said he is on a "remediation plan." Gee attended the meeting to talk about the expansion of the Big Ten, but he "quickly swerved to Notre Dame." Gee at the meeting said, "The fathers are holy on Sunday and they’re holy hell on the rest of the week. You just can’t trust those damn Catholics on a Thursday or Friday so, literally, I can say that very truthfully." He also said at the meeting, "You tell the SEC when they can learn to read and write, then they can figure out what we’re doing." SEC Commissioner Mike Slive on Thursday said that Gee "called about a week ago to apologize." Gee in a statement said, "The comments I made were just plain wrong, and in no way do they reflect what the university stands for. They were a poor attempt at humor and entirely inappropriate" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 5/31). The AP's Andrew Welsh-Huggins notes Gee previously has "gotten in trouble for his offhand remarks, most recently during a memorabilia-for-cash and tattoos scandal that cost football coach Jim Tressel his job." In November '10, Gee "boasted that Ohio State's football schedule didn't include teams on par with the 'Little Sisters of the Poor,'" and later "sent a personal check to the real Little Sisters of the Poor." Last year, Gee apologized for "comparing the problem of coordinating the school's many divisions to the Polish army" (AP, 5/30).

GEE WHIZ: In Cleveland, Doug Lesmerises writes the "bow-tied 69-year-old, who once folded the athletic department into the Office of Student Life at Vanderbilt, has never been afraid to mix it up when it comes to jock talk." Lesmerises: "Gregarious and self-deprecating, Gee never shies away from expressing an opinion" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 5/31). SPORTS ON EARTH's Tommy Tomlinson writes Gee is "known, above all else, as a brilliant fundraiser." He knows the "power of money." He knows "what it means when the football coach makes more than twice what he does." He knows that is the "case across the country." So it "makes sense for him to try to fit in with the sports people." Tomlinson: "I just don't think he has the feel for it" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 5/31). SI.com's Andy Staples wrote Gee is "far too valuable to Ohio State to allow his wayward mouth to derail his administration" (SI.com, 5/30). YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel wrote Gee "craves attention and through the years has proven he'll pretty much say or insult anything and anyone (including himself) if he thinks it might get an extra chuckle, especially if that might one day lead to an extra donation or positive word in the media." Gee "isn't likely a bigot," but a "self-centered opportunist desperate for glowing smiles and open wallets" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/30).

ON THE RECORD: In Cleveland, Terry Pluto noted Gee has been "in charge of various universities for 32 years." This is "not a novice secretly taped at a small meeting with a few friends." He "knows better" (CLEVELAND.com, 5/30). ESPN.com's Brian Bennett wrote Gee was "trying to be funny and was speaking to a crowd made up of Ohio State people." Anyone who is "seriously offended by his jabs needs to develop much thicker skin and a sense of humor." But Gee still "hasn't learned that when the leader of one of the largest universities in the country says something dumb ... that makes news" (ESPN.com, 5/30). 
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