Jim Tressel lays out game plan for YSU

Youngstown State University’s new leader says he has a vision of excellence that encompasses both the university and the region.

Jim Tressel took time to speak with the Tribune Chronicle on Tuesday, the week prior to his installment as YSU’s ninth president. The ceremony, which will include keynote speaker Ohio Gov. John Kasich, will be held 2 p.m. Monday in Beeghly Center on the YSU campus.

“We think the entire region is critical for our future,” Tressel said. He touched on the strengths of Youngstown and Warren, including being in such close proximity to one another, and stressed contributing to the area by providing opportunities in what he called a “regional initiative.”

Tressel’s game plan is trifold, and it begins with student success. Next on his radar is research and YSU’s ability to discover knowledge.

“Innovation begins at the university level,” he said.

Lastly, YSU will be a partner in impacting the region from pre-K all the way through Ph.D.

But none of Tressel’s plans will come without their own set of challenges, as YSU’s enrollment, along with many other institutions, is lower than they would like it to be. YSU’s current enrollment is just more than 13,300.

“We probably need to have a little larger footprint than we’ve had if we are going to attract the numbers of people that we will need (competitively),” he said.

Still, when YSU became a state university in 1967, Tressel said numbers were not a problem, and it’s not necessarily a problem now.

In his coaching days, Tressel said the thing that kept him up at night was Michigan. These days, the thing he worries most about is student debt. That, and the number of students who start college and don’t make it through. He compared it to coaching, when a coach focuses on the few games he’s lost rather than a larger number of games you’ve won.

“It’s a far more greater challenge than any other challenge than I’ve walked into, but that’s part of the fun,” he said.

Tressel said it is important to constantly evaluate the correct number of students and number of courses. He also said it’s going to take going on “into the trenches” and competing.

He said many people ask him how Ohio State was so successful when he was coaching football there. His response: “Talent. Talent, and putting our people in a position where they could succeed.”

Tressel suggested that if a person isn’t ready to be admitted to college, perhaps that person shouldn’t be admitted.

“I think that helps the big picture,” he said. “I think the problem is the same for all of us, everyone who went to college when I went to college sat in a seat. Who knew five years ago that higher education would have the challenges that it has today? And who can imagine the challenges it will face five years from now?” he said.

Tressel’s final advice to others is to “be successful within your means.”

He said, “I think we’re all in that situation, and it’s not easy … but that’s part of the fun of it.”