YOUNGSTOWN - After Jim Tressel pressed pen to paper Monday night at the Kilcawley Center, finalizing his contract to become the ninth president of Youngstown State University, school officials and those in attendance broke into spontaneous applause.
It was a welcome home for the Tressel family, as Jim returned to the school where he was head football coach from 1986-2000, and from where Ellen was a graduate.
"It's an exciting day for the Tressel family. I'm so blessed to be back with the Youngstown State University family," Tressel said during a news conference following the signing.
Tribune Chronicle / Ashley Newman
Newly hired Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel, right, and YSU board chairman Dr. Sudershan Garg make the contract official during a Board of Trustees meeting Monday night at Kilcawley Center on campus. Tressel will become president July 1 and will earn $300,000 for his first two years. The third year will be performance-based.
The three-year contract agreed to by the Board of Trustees will pay him a base salary of $300,000 for the first two years, beginning July 1, with the third year's salary based on performance evaluation.
Tressel's predecessor, Dr. Randy Dunn, was set to earn $375,000 in his first year as president before leaving after seven months. Board of Trustee Chairman Dr. Sudershan Garg confirmed Tressel was offered $375,000, but that Tressel made the personal decision to take less money.
"Where we can and when we can, we have to make sure that we're as selfless as we can possibly be," Tressel said. "I've been fortunate in my life to have way more blessings than anyone could possibly need.
"So anything that we can do to help, we're going to certainly do that. I felt it was the right thing to do for us as a family," he said.
The university also put a clause in the contract that would mandate Tressel to pay YSU $200,000 back if he were to leave within a year; $175,000 if he leaves within two years; and $150,000 if he leaves within three years.
Dunn left after seven months to become president at Southern Illinois University, where he formerly taught.
"We look forward to Mr. Tressel's return to Youngstown and to his leadership at YSU for many years to come," Garg said.
Tressel comes to YSU after two years as executive vice president for Student Success at the University of Akron.
Prior to that, Tressel was the head football coach at Ohio State University between the years of 2001 and 2010, where he won a national championship in 2002. As head football coach at YSU, Tressel's teams won four Division I-AA national championships. He was also executive director of athletics for YSU from 1994 to 2000.
Tressel noted lessons taken from the football field which could be applied to his new position as president of YSU.
"When I was a coach, I didn't do any of the mechanics," Tressel said. "In fact, we were better off when I tried not to get involved in the mechanics. I was the visionary."
In detailing his vision for the university, Tressel noted student retention and completion as major goals for his administration.
"The first thing we have to do when it comes to retention is to thoroughly believe that it's every person's responsibility to help retention," he said. "When the student is on campus, every faculty member, adviser and so forth, has to take that into consideration in any interaction.
''We want students to enjoy what they're learning, and they want to stay and succeed here," he said.
In addition, Tressel said he believes the university should have a broader goal of impacting the entire Mahoning Valley.
"The spirit that you can have within a region can certainly be ignited by an institution, whether they be in the arts, athletics or the wholesomeness of college-aged kids," Tressel said. "I'm not sure there is any group that can make a bigger difference than a university, as long as we put our efforts into things that can be transformative for the entire region.
"We will work with the community, businesses, the Diocese and every other kind of institution in the Valley."
Tressel is a 1975 graduate of Baldwin-Wallace College with a bachelor's degree in education. He earned his master's degree in education from the University of Akron in 1977.