Tressel touts oneness

YOUNGSTOWN – Jim Tressel said no matter which job he ultimately takes, coaching is not in his future.

Tressel, former coach and current executive vice president for student success at the University of Akron, addressed Youngs-town State University students, faculty and staff on Monday while exploring his candidacy for president.

Tressel’s name has been heralded by a chorus of area politicians and officials supporting him to become the next YSU president. He is one of three candidates vying for the position following Randy Dunn’s recent departure.

Tressel also is a finalist for the same position at UA.

Dunn, whose last day was March 21, left to become president at Southern Illinois University after just seven months at the helm.

Tressel said any time he looks at taking a job, he considers that he’s taking it forever.

He also defended Dunn’s decision to leave so abruptly, describing an “unusual situation” that was the best thing for Dunn’s family. He said Dunn served YSU well during the seven months, and commended the initiatives Dunn put in place.

Tressel answered questions posed by the media shortly before addressing YSU students and faculty. Following the press conference and university address, he attended a dessert reception with community leaders and dined with the executive committee of YSU’s Board of Trustees.

The other candidates, Gary L. Miller and Mary Cullinan, will take their turns today and Wednesday as they also are invited to tour the campus and address the community. Cullinan is president and professor of English at Southern Oregon University, and Miller is chancellor of University of North Carolina Wilmington.

One question asked Monday was why Tressel didn’t apply for president of YSU prior to Dunn’s appointment. He said he was approached by the search firm, but at the time, he had made a two-year commitment to UA.

“I thought it was very important to fulfill that commitment,” he said.

Tressel remarked about certain questions being asked multiple times. One of those questions seemed to be in the forefront of everyone’s mind: If both universities make him an offer, which one will he choose?

Tressel admitted the question was not one he was not prepared to answer. Instead, he said he wanted what was best for both YSU and UA because they are both special to him.

“You kind of go back and forth about am I the best one for either of these jobs and are either of these jobs best for me? I think anything’s possible,” he said.

No matter where he lands, Tressel said it will be a commitment he takes seriously.

“I haven’t been offered anything (yet). You play the game and you see how it plays out from there.”

UA’s Board of Trustees met in executive session Monday to discuss their candidates, but have yet to make their selection. Tressel said he’s not sure how much time he would have to accept or decline an offer, but that UA is aware that he is a finalist at YSU and will be respectful of the process. YSU trustees hope to have a new president selected by the end of the month.

Other questions involved the YSU’s current financial situation. Tressel said funding is a real concern and that it should be addressed in three ways: increasing the retention rate; raising money outside the institution; and attracting more research grants. Among these, he said a high retention rate is key.

But as far as his first move if he becomes YSU’s next president, Tressel said he would rather wait the summer out so he can have the input of all the faculty and staff. He would instead take time for analysis of the university’s priorities and complete external work.

Tressel holds a master’s degree in education from UA and a bachelor’s in education from Baldwin-Wallace College. He won four national championships as YSU’s head football coach from 1986 to 2000, the last six years of which he also served as director of athletics. He was head football coach for the Ohio State University for 10 years, winning a national championship.

In his cover letter to YSU, Tressel said, “I feel prepared to assume the honor, privilege and challenge of the presidency at Youngstown State University.” He also said the 15 years his family spent at YSU ”were special” and that “without a question, the Valley holds a special place in our hearts.”

In his cover letter to Akron, Tressel asks the board to consider an interim presidency that will allow for the “transition to a new permanent leader to take place with the university is on more solid ground.”