The man who traded scarlet and gray for blue and gold is among three finalists for the presidency of the University of Akron.
The school on Tuesday announced it has cut the list of 19 applicants to three men who will be on campus next week for additional interviews and meetings.
• Ronald A. Nykiel, provost of University of Maryland Eastern Shore and former dean of business of Husson University in Bangor, Maine.
• Scott L. Scarborough, provost of the University of Toledo and former executive vice president for finance and administration of DePaul University in Chicago.
• Jim Tressel, executive vice president of student success at UA and the former national championship-winning football coach at Ohio State University.
Jonathan Pavloff, a UA trustee and search committee chair, said the university is encouraged that the process that began in August is nearing an end.
“We’re at the point now where we are kind of excited to re-engage the university community again and bring those constituency groups back into the process by allowing them to meet with these three finalists,” he said by phone Tuesday afternoon.
Finalists will spend an entire day interviewing on campus and meeting with seven groups that include faculty, students, college deans, trustees and the public.
Nykiel will be on campus Monday, Scarborough on Wednesday and Tressel on Thursday.
The open forums at which Nykiel and Scarborough will be available to the public are 3 to 4 p.m. during their on-campus dates. Tressel’s open forum will be 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Thursday. The sessions will be held inside the UA Student Union Theatre.
Trustees are looking for a new leader to take on numerous challenges, particularly in terms of the financial demands confronting the school and its 27,000 students. With a staff of 5,000 and a $388 million budget, UA is among Summit County’s largest employers.
Tressel has not spoken publicly about his candidacy, but in his application wrote that, “It is my opinion that we need more than a leader who can ‘hit the ground running.’ ”
“The University would be better served by a leader who has been ‘on the ground’ with the current team. ... Put simply, I believe I am the right leader at this time.”
UA officials might need to move quickly if Tressel is their choice.
Backers of Youngstown State University actively have been promoting Tressel for the open presidency there, and the YSU trustees’ president has said that he would seriously consider Tressel for the job.
Tressel won four national championships in 15 seasons with the Penguins before leaving for Ohio State and has remained a big benefactor of the university.
YSU said it expects to cut its list of candidates to six to eight finalists this week.
Pavloff said it is not unusual for presidential candidates to be seeking more than one position, and UA trustees will not rush their process.
“Our process and our timeline is defined as we structured it. The fact that Youngstown is re-engaged in the process is coincidental,” he said. “Obviously, we’re going to continue to conduct our search according to the guideline of our process.”
Tressel is the only finalist without a doctoral degree. Some consider it a huge hole in his resume.
Pavloff noted that Norman Auburn, UA’s longest serving president, held only a bachelor’s degree when he was hired in 1951. He served for 20 years.
Nykiel was an applicant for the Kent State University presidency that eventually went to Beverly Warren, provost of Virginia Commonwealth University.
KSU’s search has garnered local and national scrutiny. Critics have assailed the university for its reluctance to disclose the finalists’ names.
KSU officials deny breaking any Ohio public records law while conducting the search and have said privacy guarantees made by using a private search firm brought out more and better-qualified applicants who did not want their names released publicly.
Pavloff acknowledged that he is aware of potential UA applicants who declined to pursue the job because of the public nature of UA’s search.
“I can tell you that there were some candidates who, when confronted with the prospect of having their name announced, decided to withdraw,” he said. “Now, whether they would have been candidates that we would have invited to campus ... I cannot determine that because they withdrew from the process.
“But, nonetheless the open records laws determine how we conduct the process, and that’s what guides us.”
Pavloff and the other trustees on the search committee — Roland Bauer, Olivia Demas and Ralph Palmisano — have been meeting since August to find the successor to President Luis Proenza, who steps down July 1 to return to teaching.
Trustees hired the firm R. William Funk and Associates of Dallas to help in the search.
From an original list of 19 applicants, four dropped out early in the process.
Two of the remaining 15 candidates who did not make the cut to finalists are from the Akron area: Ronald Bucci, interim vice president for professional and support services at Akron Children’s Hospital; and Martin Belsky, UA’s Randolph Baxter Professor of Law and former dean of the university’s law school.
UA has a Web page devoted to the search: www.uakron.edu/bot/president-search.dot.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at 330-996-3729 or firstname.lastname@example.org.