Tressel in top 3 for Akron president

Former Youngstown State and Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel is one of three finalists for president of the University of Akron, the college announced on its website Tuesday.

Tressel currently serves as UA’s executive vice president for Student Success. He is also a candidate for president of Youngstown State University.

The YSU Board of Trustees is in the process of selecting candidates for the first interviews, Dr. Sudershan Garg confirmed on Tuesday. Garg said the board will choose between six and eight of the 33 applicants to interview. Garg pointed out that candidates don’t always agree to in-person interviews.

“Some people change their mind after they apply,” he said.

The board hopes to have a president appointed by the end of May.

“We have a good pool, (but) we are still in the first inning yet,” he said.

Tressel’s 24-year football head coaching career came to an end in 2011 with his resignation from the position at OSU amid scandal.

When he left the job, the program was under intense scrutiny after players sold championship rings in exchange for $14,000 in cash and tattoos. Selling rings and memorabilia is against NCAA rules.

Eventually, Ohio State was hit with a one-year bowl ban for the infractions, which occurred under Tressel’s watch.

Students and faculty at Akron expressed little concern with Tressel’s messy exit from OSU as it pertains to his potentially becoming president of UA.

Amanda Rabinowitz, who teaches radio production in the communications department at Akron, said she believes Tressel’s qualifications should be the deciding factor.

“I don’t think (the scandal) should have any influence on a decision as to whether or not he becomes president,” Rabinowitz said. “The scandal that happened at OSU is long in the past and he’s obviously moved on from that. I just want to know if he’s qualified for the position.”

Because Tressel has spent much of his life coaching football, Rabinowitz wondered if his academic background was sufficient for a person to become president of a large university.

“When you hear Jim Tressel, you think football,” Rabinowitz said. “I know that his name comes with a lot of fundraising capabilities and I think that’s fantastic, because we need that. But, I want to know, what are his qualifications?”

Tressel accepted a position in Akron’s administration in 2012. During his time on campus, Rabinowitz said the reviews have been generally positive.

“I haven’t had any interactions with him, but some of my students have,” she said. “They’ve said he’s been really accessible. I had a student who was doing a radio story about Tressel and she wanted to talk to him.

“My first reaction was no way he’d do it, but she told me she talks to him all the time. He’s easy to get a hold of, which is important,” she continued.

Sophomore communications student Mylor Acquaah agreed that Tressel usually has his door open for students.

“My interactions with him here have been all positive,” Acquaah said. “He seems open to talking to students and you don’t ever see him as a celebrity, even though he might have that kind of status.”

Still, Acquaah echoed faculty sentiments that his qualifications need to be the focus of his candidacy for school president.

“From an academic standpoint, you need certain skills to be able to adapt to certain situations,” Acquaah said. “Everyone has to start somewhere of course, but I feel like people with his kind of background, with the coaching job at OSU, they’re automatically expected to thrive in any leadership position.

“I’m not saying he’s not doing a good job or will do a bad job as president, but being a football coach and university president require different skills.”

The three finalists at Akron Tressel, Ronald A. Nykiel and Scott L. Scarborough will undergo the interview process on campus the week of April 28.

Tressel’s will be held May 1. Each will spend a day interviewing and also will meet with the multiple constituency-advisory groups. They each will also appear individually in open, public forums.