After Youngstown State University President Randy Dunn announced his sudden departure from the university, there was no shortage of speculation about the future of this position, but one name has been heard again and again: Jim Tressel.
Tressel, former head coach of both Youngstown State University and the Ohio State University and current vice president of Strategic Engagement at the University of Akron, has received a significant wave of support from the YSU community, the Youngstown community and even from those across the State.
Though Tressel has been sparse and reserved with his comments about the support, both Tim Ryan, U.S. Congressman for Ohio, and Robert Hagan, an Ohio House Representative, have both urged YSU to seek out Tressel for the next president.
At a YSU Board of Trustees meeting on February 27, Sudershan Garg, Chair of the Board, responded to the community’s endorsement of Tressel.
“I think we are very pleased that the community is supportive of his candidacy, and Jim Tressel is also aware that we have a selection process for a president and that process has to go on, and it will be followed very thoroughly. I would hope that Jim Tressel will apply for the presidency, but he has to apply for it,” Garg said.
Harry Meshel, former Ohio State Senator and Board trustee, agreed that Tressel should apply and added insight about the communities resounding support.
“There is no question in my mind that Tressel should apply,” Meshel said. “If you can manage an enormous football program and lead it to success, no matter where or whatever state you’re in, that indicates that you can be a strong manager of an institution. Then if you can add to that scholastic capabilities and understanding of academics and the importance of it, then you have a combination that appeals to people.”
After graduating from Baldwin Wallace University, Tressel worked across the state and coached at four different Ohio universities, spending 14 years at YSU before moving on to OSU. His long list of supporters say his experience across the state could bring previously untapped money and support to YSU.
Jon Heacock, former head coach and assistant coach under Tressel at YSU, vouched for Tressel’s people skills and competence.
“I think he can run an organization of any kind because I think he has people skills,” Heacock said. “I have a 17 year old son that is going to be a junior in high school. If my son could go play college football for coach Tressel, I would send him there immediately. … If he ever had the opportunity to work for Jim Tressel, I would send him there immediately.”
Maurice Clarett, who played as a running back at OSU during Tressel’s tenure as head coach, also vouched for Tressel’s character.
“I am sure that he would make a fantastic president,” Clarett said. “He can bring a lot of resources to the area and he’s a phenomenal leader. … More than anything, I want him to land on his feet and serve people. Whether he does that at Akron, cool. If he does that at YSU, cool.”
The one reservation members of the community have voiced about Tressel is his lack of a master’s degree or doctorate, a common credential for university presidents. Garg said, however, that this would not count against him.
Meshel added that this implicit requirement has become less important in academia over the years.
“When I went to Columbia University for my graduate degree, guess who the president was? The president of Columbia at that time was General Eisenhower. Eisenhower didn’t have a college degree. He didn’t have university degree. He had a military degree,” Meshel said. “That tradition has changed a lot. PhDs are very important, I don’t want to demean them in any way, but you can have PhDs and not be a good manager. When it comes to Jim Tressel, I would stake my reputation on him.”