After months of speculation, Youngstown State University corrected a mistake they made a year earlier by hiring former head football coach Jim Tressel to be their new university president after Dr. Randy Dunn surprisingly left for Southern Illinois University after only seven months on the job. Tressel, who left YSU in 2001 for a ten-year stint as Ohio State’s head coach that included a BCS National Championship and a 9-1 record against archrival Michigan, had spent the last two years working at another university he has ties to, the University of Akron.
People want to criticize the choice of Tressel taking over for both academic reasons and for his acrimonious departure from OSU in 2011. However, how many of those people are alum of YSU? I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree from YSU in 2010 after 7 1/2 years (I took two years off at one point), and based both my alumni ties as well as other factors, I can say that they made the best possible choice.
Let’s take a look at his academic credentials. Tressel’s highest academic achievement is a Master’s in Education. Running an entire university usually requires a PhD, and a Master’s Degree remains the fastest-growing post-secondary degree in the United States, which means a Master’s is essentially watered down anymore. (Although I’ve taken the GRE, I myself have gone back and forth as to whether or not I want to go to graduate school.) The fact that Tressel doesn’t have a Doctorate, let alone having experience teaching in the collegiate level, running an entire academic department, and even run an entire college (in this sense, I mean the individual colleges that make up a university, not an entire school in itself), makes Tressel on paper seem under-qualified.
However, the most important tool as being the face of a university is selling itself. Tressel excelled at fundraising as a coach, and is well-renowned in his home state of Ohio, especially Columbus and Youngstown, where he obviously had strong ties to due to his coaching success. Additionally, when I was a student there, I knew plenty of people there who knew Tressel from his time as head coach at YSU, and they all had nothing but nice things to say about the man. And nobody faulted him for leaving for Ohio State: a successful mid-major coach in any sport will inevitably be pursued by a major-conference school, and many of the people I went to school with were OSU fans anyways.
As for his football credentials? Regardless of what people outside of Ohio want to say about Tressel, he left with dignity and his pride intact. No coach in any sport in the NCAA is perfect, and we all know the NCAA’s structure needs reform anyways. Would the issue of Tressel’s players selling memorabilia for tattoos and money even be an issue if the NCAA allowed each school to give each player a bigger stipend? A lot of schools have had this problem in the past or have a similar issue now.
And what Tressel did was a parking ticket in comparison to what Jerry Sandusky did, which surfaced only a few months after Tressel was forced out of OSU. Stuff like the Penn State sex abuse scandal is what the NCAA should be pursuing (personally, as a Pennsylvania native and resident, I don’t think the NCAA did enough to punish Penn State), not improper benefits that has been a problem at more than a few schools and is proof that the NCAA’s bylaws need re-written.
This is a major hire for YSU, in an area that outside of the university really hasn’t had too much good going for it the last 40 years. They could not have found a better candidate to take over as face of the university. This is a major morale boost in the Mahoning Valley, and the residents are known to support local heroes that might be reviled on a national level.
Just ask Jim Traficant.