Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee To Retire In Wake Of Controversial Comments
Ohio State Univ. President E. Gordon Gee yesterday announced his plans to retire, but said that he "isn’t retiring on July 1 because of his jokes about 'those damn Catholics' at Notre Dame and jabs at other schools," according to a front-page piece by Encarnacion Pyle of the COLUMBUS DISPATCH. Gee said the recent "tumultuous times" sped his decision to retire. But he added that his retirement "had nothing to do with his verbal gaffes during a December meeting of the Ohio State Athletics Council." Gee "couldn’t resist making another zinger during a conference call with reporters when he explained that he’s 'quirky as hell' and just can’t help telling a good joke when the opportunity presents itself." Gee said, “I have regrets when I have said something that I shouldn’t have, but I have no regrets about having a sense of humor and having a thick skin and enjoying life." He added, "I only have a month to run the university, and I better get on it." OSU Exec VP & Provost Joseph Alutto "agreed to serve as OSU's interim president" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 6/5). USA TODAY's George Schroeder writes, "It's an example of how an ultra-successful college administrator ... cannot afford to be too often sensational." Univ. of Oregon President Emeritus Dave Frohnmayer said of a university president's role, "You're expected to be the embodiment of the institution and its values. It's high visibility, but it's very sensitive. There's a certain expectation that without being pompous, you should be responsible, reflective -- not brash, off-the-cuff or smart-alecky" (USA TODAY, 6/5). YAHOO SPORTS' Pat Forde wrote Gee "symbolizes how and why presidential oversight of the NCAA has become a failed mission." Gee stands "symbolic of so many presidents and chancellors caught in the quagmire of college athletics" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/4).
BUCKEYE VS. BLACK EYE: CBSSPORTS.com's Jeremy Fowler wrote OSU "deserves credit for not allowing Gee's comments -- especially about Catholics -- to pass here." Schools "can't condone religious digs, certainly not from a president." OSU can "find plenty of qualified replacements with athletic acumen to pair" with AD Gene Smith and football coach Urban Meyer. At a school with a "hefty donor base," producing nearly $365M in donations last year, OSU "can't afford having a president who angers a large percentage of that crowd" (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/4). The COLUMBUS DISPATCH's Pyle reports the OSU Board of Trustees after Gee’s December comments "met in private on January 31 and March 8 to discuss a remediation plan that directs Gee to scale back on his public speeches." The board also said that the school "should hire a 'coach' to help Gee do his job" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 6/5). ESPN's Andre Ware said Gee's announcement is "shocking" because the Board "basically outlined everything that needed to be done" for Gee. Ware: "He seemed to be online and in par with what he needed to do. So I guess it got to be just a little bit too much pressure going forward for Dr. Gee" ("College Football Live," ESPN, 6/4). Meanwhile, in Detroit, Drew Sharp writes the Big Ten is "getting humiliated once again." School presidents such as Gee and Robert Barchi of incoming Big Ten member Rutgers Univ. are "embarrassing the conference far more than its chronic lack of football success" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 6/5).
NUTHIN' BUT A GEE THING: SI.com's Andy Staples wrote under the header, "Ohio State's Gordon Gee Was A Lousy Comedian, Not A Lousy President." Gee did his job "very well -- with one glaring exception." A president's "most important task is raising funds by either cajoling the state legislature to appropriate funds or by convincing private citizens to give their hard-earned cash to the school." Gee was a "master at the latter." The same "goofy style that made him a PR director's nightmare in a press conference made him relatable to his individual constituents and donors." But the "fear now, based on the reactions to the stand-up act first unearthed last week ... is that he may have offended enough people to turn off those donors and those potential donors." Gee in essence "made himself poisonous" (SI.com, 6/4). ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel wrote Gee "embraced football" and saw it as a "vehicle for transporting his university's message." No university president has "taken a lap around more football press boxes than Gee." He wanted the media to "see him," and he "wanted to chat." Gee "loved attention." Gee's sense of humor helped "propel him to stand among the top university presidents in the country for more than two decades." But if Gee "had his ear to the ground, he might have noticed over the past decade that sensitivities have heightened" (ESPN.com, 6/4). ESPN.com's Brian Bennett wrote Gee has been a "fantastic fundraiser, bringing millions and millions of dollars into the school." He also was an "influential member of the Big Ten's Council of Presidents and Chancellors" (ESPN.com, 6/4).
EMPHASIS ON EDUCATION: INSIDE HIGHER ED's Kevin Kiley writes, "Regardless of the motivation for his retirement, Gee will likely leave a significant legacy in higher education, both on the campuses he ran and in the sector as a whole." At OSU, he has been a "prolific fund-raiser, attracted top talent to work with him and generally reworked the financial model to keep costs to students and families down." American Council on Education President Molly Corbett Broad in a statement said, "Few leaders in the past 25 years have had such a profound impact on American higher education as E. Gordon Gee" (INSIDEHIGHERED.com, 6/5). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Rachel Bachman notes Gee is "one of the nation’s highest-profile university leaders, recently leading a national commission on the future of higher education" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/5).