Gee Sheds Light On Tressel Resignation

More than one week after Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel resigned from his post, questions remain about what ultimately led to that decision. Speaking a hallway at the Ohio Statehouse on Tuesday afternoon, university president E. Gordon Gee shed more light on the situation.

On March 8, Ohio State announced a two-game suspension for head coach Jim Tressel. During the ill-fated press conference, both university president E. Gordon Gee and athletic director Gene Smith staunchly backed their coach and said that dismissing had not been considered an option.

Less than three months later, Tressel tendered his resignation with Gee saying it was the best move going forward for the university.

What transpired during those 83 days? According to the president, two factors changed.

"The decision we made at the time was based on what we knew, No. 1, and No. 2 was based upon what was an incredible body of work both as a football coach but more importantly as a university citizen," said Gee, who was testifying at the Ohio Statehouse on Tuesday in support of House Bill 188. "Jim Tressel and (his wife) Ellen Tressel have been great citizens of the university. We have a process at the university in which we do not immediately make decisions but rather we are trying to be deliberative and that was that process."

In addition to investigations into possible improper benefits for players relating to car purchases launched following the March 8 press conference, two key stories helped keep OSU cast in a negative light nationally. In an article published May 25 by the university's student newspaper The Lantern, former wide receiver Ray Small said he had sold memorabilia during his career and added that "everyone was doing it."

Five days later, Sports Illustrated published an in-depth piece attacking Tressel's character that also alleged that nine more current players as well as nearly 30 total Buckeyes had received improper benefits from the sale of signed memorabilia dating back to 2002.

"Two months later, I think there are a lot of additional facts that occurred and there also was the reality that we were facing serious issues," Gee said. "The coach realized that and made what I think is the best decision on behalf of the university, which was to resign."

Asked if those additional facts were the aforementioned two articles or other information gathered internally, Gee said, "I think that there is an accumulation of issues which were very troubling to the university."

During the March press conference, Gee uttered his now-famous remark that he hoped Tressel did not fire him. He also told reporters that he had conducted a lengthy, in-person interview with Tressel on the situation one day prior.

Giving Tressel a chance to make his case and also to be able to engage in conversation related to the situation was important to the university, Gee said. That process was apparently not limited to the conversation between the two in March.

"I think that snap judgment about issues are not in the best interests of the university," Gee said. "We don't do that with our students. We don't do that with our faculty. We don't do that with our football coach."

However, Gee said the university was as aggressive as possible in its handling of the situation.

"Our university is known as being hyper aggressive: immediate reporting, immediate looking at issues," he said. "That's the way I want it to be. What I said was that we as an institution always have to be appropriately humble and contrite about the mistakes we've made and then move on from there. We always look at the mistakes we made."

Since Tressel's resignation, Gee has been busy putting the final touches on spring quarter at OSU. Commencement is this Sunday at Ohio Stadium with a record 9,600 students scheduled to receive degrees.

The university is set to appear before the NCAA on August 12 to respond to the allegations of misconduct. Gee said the university will present its complete findings and that OSU has taken appropriate actions to address the alleged wrongdoings.

The president drew a distinction between the problems experienced by the football program and the university at large.

"This has been a national black eye, there's no doubt about it," he said, "but the university itself has not been damaged. Our fundraising is up, our student applications are up, the quality of education by every major is doing very well. We now need to make our case on the national stage that it is about a great university and that when we stumble we take appropriate actions to make certain that we correct those.

"Just remember this: our university is doing very well. I live in a bifurcated world right now. I live in a world of the university, which is a magnificent institution doing very well, and I live in a world of football where we have problems that we are addressing."

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