Gordon Gee, Ohio St. president, takes shots at Notre Dame’s ‘damn Catholics’

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Gee contacted Notre Dame’s president, the Rev. John Jenkins, to offer an apology that was accepted, Brown said Thursday in an email.

The Athletic Council meets monthly during the fall, winter and spring and makes recommendations on athletic policy including ticket prices. December’s meeting was at Ohio Stadium.

Gee was introduced by Athletic Council then-chairman Charlie Wilson, and Gee’s name and introduction are included in written minutes of the meeting. Gee’s comments drew laughter, at times loud, occasionally nervous, but no rebukes, according to the audio.

Ohio State trustees learned of “certain offensive statements” by Gee in January, met with the president at length and created the remediation plan for Gee to “address his behavior,” board president Robert Schottenstein said in a statement.

Comments by a university leader about “particular groups, classes of people or individuals are wholly unacceptable,” Schottenstein said. “These statements were inappropriate, were not presidential in nature and do not comport with the core values of the university.”

Gee has gotten in trouble before for offhand remarks, most recently during a memorabilia-for-cash and tattoos scandal that cost football coach Jim Tressel his job. Tressel had known about allegations that players were trading game paraphernalia for money and tattoos but didn’t tell the university.

Gee was asked in March 2011 whether he had considered firing Tressel. He responded: “No, are you kidding? Let me just be very clear: I’m just hopeful the coach doesn’t dismiss me.” Tressel stepped down three months later.

In November 2010, Gee boasted that Ohio State’s football schedule didn’t include teams on par with the “Little Sisters of the Poor.” An apologetic Gee later sent a personal check to the real Little Sisters of the Poor in northwest Ohio and followed up with a visit to the nuns months later.

Last year, Gee apologized for comparing the problem of coordinating the school’s many divisions to the Polish army, an off-the-cuff remark that a Polish-American group called a “slanderous” display of bigotry and ignorance.

In 1992, in a moment of frustration over higher education funding, Gee told a student newspaper reporter, “the governor’s a damn dummy.” Then-Gov. George Voinovich laughed it off and the two became allies in the push for more education dollars.

Gee has one of the highest-profile resumes of any college president in recent history. He has held the top job at West Virginia University, the University of Colorado, Brown University and Vanderbilt University. He was Ohio State president from 1990 to 1997, and returned in 2007. He earns about $1.9 million annually in base pay, deferred and performance compensation and retirement benefits.

He is a prolific fundraiser and is leading a $2.5 billion campaign at Ohio State. He is omnipresent on campus, attending everything from faculty awards events to dormitory pizza parties. He is known for his bow ties — he has hundreds — and his horn-rimmed glasses.

During his comments to the Athletic Council, Gee also questioned the academic integrity of schools in the Southeastern Conference, and the University of Louisville.

The top goal of Big Ten presidents is to “make certain that we have institutions of like-minded academic integrity,” Gee said. “So you won’t see us adding Louisville,” a member of the Big East conference that is also joining the ACC.

After a pause followed by laughter from the audience, Gee added that the Big Ten wouldn’t add the University of Kentucky, either.

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