I grew up in Cleveland. I have always been a big Buckeye sports fan. I'm known in the Maine theater community as the guy who brought a TV into the dressing room if I had a rehearsal during an important Buckeye game. When our team won that was as it should be. When we lost I felt as if it were my own butt that had been kicked. After an especially depressing loss I have stopped watching sports completely for weeks, until I can remember that it was only a game. I don't take the Scarlett and Grey lightly.
For reasons that made sense at the time I did not go to Ohio State. Since I left for the college I did attend I have never lived closer than 800 miles to Columbus, so I know nothing about the school president other than what I read. Getting endowments does not get press; acting like Homer Simpson does; and so that is what I know. And to know Gordon Gee this way is most definitely not to love him.
The "little sisters of the poor" comment was both mean and ignorant. It was mean because iit insults both those who provide service to the poor; It was ignorant on two levels,. First, I certainly hope that a university president does not devote so much of his time to football that he actually knows anything about who the "good teams" are. Second, because Ohio State football teams have played notoriously soft out of conference schedules; and in too many years the in-conference competition has arguably been soft as well. And while the Buckeyes have won we have frequently made "bad" opponents look pretty good. Regardless, that kind of athletic trash talk should be left to the running backs, and the athletic department employees who are paid royally to defend Ohio State athletics' honor. The university president should have more important things to do than weigh in on the SOS. Gee came out of that looking like a mean clown. His defenders can probably rightfully claim no harm no foul; and there are no lasting injuries except to Gee's own reputation.
Not so his comment about Tressell. We will never know but unless someone in the NCAA tells me directly that I'm wrong I will believe till I die that Urban Meyer was doing TV commentary instead of coaching during the 2012-2013 bowl season in part because of the arrogance of a school that, in the words of its president, feels that its football coach is more important than that president. At least in the court of my own opinion Gordon Gee was on probation following that verbal disaster.
In my opinion the comments that have just been made public are violations of that probation. Attacking an entire religion is not "boys being boys" - it is symptomatic of the hatred that leads its victims to commit suicide and retaliate with violence. That Notre Dame and other Catholic universities will not actually attack Gee or Ohio State does not make any less serious his transgression.
His comments about the SEC are particularly ironic, because had he lived 50 years ago Gee would probably be vocally championing the racism of Adolph Rupp and Bear Bryant. He is intolerant in their mold, and there is nothing innocent about his hatred, he is too well educated, too experienced to believe that he can un-ring a bell.
And a university that is lead by one who on too many occasions has demonstrated both that he is intolerant and is unable to control his anti-social behavior loses the right to be respected. It is no longer an accident when Gee flames; it is the norm for the university.
Gee is being defended as a great fund-raiser. He may be. Though that doesn't pardon unacceptable behavior, anymore than being a great football coach excuses giving a job to your mistress. And though I do not know the details I think it possible that Gee is being given credit he does not deserve. Ohio State was a strong institution before Gee arrived - it was not made great by Gee. Likely anyone committed to fund raising could accomplish for The Ohio State University what Gee has. And if Gee has sources others might not it is likely to be people who find his intolerance attractive. How much blood is Ohio State willing to allow on its money?
Penn State's Board of Trustees did not want to fire Joe Paterno but his behavior finally left them no choice. I think it entirely appropriate to consider whether Gee has proven himself similarly not worth the positives he brings. Tressell was replaced by someone better; O'Brien was replaced by someone better. I think it appropriate for the Ohio State Board of Trustees to consider whether Ohio State can improve itself by now replacing Gordon Gee.