Outspoken Prexy Gee Talks College Football

There aren't many topics on which OSU president E. Gordon Gee does not have an opinion. Thankfully, BuckeyeSports.com was able to find Gee holding court at Ohio State's football bowl media day Tuesday. Included are his thoughts on many football-related topics like the success of the Buckeyes and the status of big-money college football.

The difference between presidents at Ohio State from one year ago until today could not be more pronounced.

For the past five years, the university was led by Karen A. Holbrook, who most would say would have ended up at Ohio State's bowl media day only if she were lost.

On the other hand is E. Gordon Gee, the "prodigal son" who returned to lead Ohio State for a second term this past summer. Many have described the bespectacled Gee, with his penchant for wearing bow ties, as OSU's "rock star" president, but his charming and outgoing nature sometimes hides his vociferous opinions on many subjects.

For example, Gee bristled Thursday when asked if Ohio State had to defeat LSU in the upcoming Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game Jan. 7 in New Orleans. Even though the Buckeyes are coming off of a 41-14 loss to Southeastern Conference foe Florida in last year's title game and are facing another SEC squad, Gee said Big Ten champion Ohio State does not have to prove anything to the rest of the nation.

"Our coaches and our team are already winners as far as I'm concerned," said the man who once memorably intoned that a 1992 tie against Michigan was the school's greatest victory. "I don't think we need to prove anything to anyone. We've been through a very difficult season in a very competitive conference in a very competitive world, and we've come out ranked where we are, so I don't think we need to prove anything to anyone."

Gee returned to Ohio State this summer after leaving the university to lead Brown University in 1997. He left for Vanderbilt in 2000 and spent seven years in the SEC with the Commodores before his return to Columbus.

The 63-year-old Gee, a noted fundraiser, said he does not expect a financial windfall to hit Ohio State because of the football success this year, but is still looking forward to what it can do for the school.

"I think there's a lot of data to show that a great football season does not a great fundraising year make," he said. "But it does show that it creates an unbelievable level of spirit and support among its alumni and amongst its friends. That's what we want to do."

Conversation soon shifted to another topic that left Gee bristling. He is a noted critic of the current collegiate athletics system, believing that too much emphasis is placed on athletics over academics at the university level. While at Vanderbilt, he eliminated the department of athletics, folding it into the office of student affairs.

The recent news of former Louisville coach Bobby Petrino leaving the Atlanta Falcons after 13 games – and telling his players via a typed note left in their lockers – to become the head coach at Arkansas was one recent act that got Gee's goat.

"I will say this bluntly: I think Bobby Petrino's latest act is just another idea of what is the problem with this profession," Gee said. "We tell our players that they live by a certain set of rules and regulations, but yet we don't hold our coaches to the same standard. That's wrong. I think we need to recalibrate that. Coaches cannot leave players and programs in the lurch after they have created issues, problems, or created expectations for young people to come and be with them."

Gee would not cast blame on the university itself nor on his colleague, Arkansas chancellor John White.

"The system allowed that to happen," he said. "It's not John White. John White played by the rules of the game, but the problem is the rules are broken. I think that the solution would be for us to enter into an agreement among the institutions that we should have a system in which the hiring process had a much more rational basis. Everyone will get together as university presidents and they will do something like that, and then they will go home and break the rules."

One thing Gee will not have to worry about is his football coach leaving. Jim Tressel on Thursday said that the Ohio State job is the only job he'd like to have, and it's safe to say that Ohio State will not be asking the seventh-year coach with a 73-15 record to step down any time soon.

Gee said that Tressel was one of the first people to welcome him back to the university after his hiring.

"The guy behind the vest is the same guy you see," Gee said. "He is the most focused and the most even-keeled coach that I've ever worked with and maybe one of the most even-keeled people that I've ever worked with. I tell everyone that I am thoroughly convinced that Jim Tressel could do anything he wants to, including run this university."

Gee recently was a part of the group of Big Ten presidents who helped approve a motion to place a bye week into the conference football schedule, thus pushing the slate past Thanksgiving. However, don't expect another change on the horizon when it comes to the entire college football landscape.

"As far as a playoff system, there will not be one," he said. "They'll have to wrench a playoff system out of my cold dead hands."

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