AKRON - Jim Tressel spoke at an open forum Thursday at the University of Akron as part of his bid to become the school's next president.
Currently the executive vice president for student success at the university, he addressed questions from students, faculty members and alumni. Throughout the hourlong forum, Tressel pushed team spirit as the driving force toward the future success of the university.
"Oneness is the foundation that any good organization needs. Oneness is what any good family needs," he said.
"Today is about the University of Akron. If we could inspire our students through our selfless behavior to have a passion to learn, they're not going to leave here. They're going to retain; they're going to complete. That's how we can create the extraordinary foundation to create that Akron experience," he said.
Tressel humbled himself throughout the interview, giving credit to others in Akron's administration whether during questions about finances or qualities he would seek in a provost.
Early in the forum, he discussed enrollment and finding ways to retain students, saying they have to find a way to reduce debt. "We don't want our students to go out into the world with that on their backs."
Dr. Elizabeth B. Erickson, an associate professor in the economics department, inquired about qualities he would look for when hiring a provost.
Tressel rallied his team once again, saying he would look for a confident person who was as selfless as he or she could be.
"Intentionally working hard for the needs of others is the No. 1 characteristic of that person, because it is so crucial," he said, adding that a provost would have to be selfless, a great communicator, a listener, have great experiences and have the ability to bring a varied set of opinions together and come to consensus in selfless manner to decide what the university can be great at.
The former Youngstown State and Ohio State football coach was also pressed to address the financial tension between academics and athletics and the perceived bias he would have toward athletics. Tressel denied that bias, saying he would hate to be an athletic director working for a president who once held that job.
Ideally, the university should "spend a little less and get a little more revenue in both academics and athletics," he said.
His coaching background rang out in his exit as he said, "There's amazing things being done in academics. There's amazing things being done in athletics. The spirit is amazing, but can we get a lot better. The only way we'll be extraordinary is if we work to be as selfless as possible as we try to get better ... to fully believe that every single one of us is insignificant without the others."
Tressel heads to YSU next week for another open forum as he pursues the president's job in Youngstown as well.
In addition to meetings with university students, faculty, executive staff, deans, union leaders, YSU Foundation representatives and community leaders, he will meet in an open public forum from 2 to 3 p.m. Monday in the Board of Trustees meeting room on the first floor of Tod Hall.
His competitors for the position include Gary L. Miller, whose open forum takes place from 2 to 3 p.m. Tuesday, and Mary Cullinan, who speaks to the public from 2 to 3 p.m. Wednesday.