It isn’t clear what the trim, tan man with kangaroo tie will do as vice president of strategic engagement at the University of Akron.
But UA officials clearly are thrilled to bring former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel on board – tarnished reputation or not.
“I’m very excited,” UA President Luis Proenza said. “He’s a very special person. There wasn’t a single person I asked who didn’t have a high opinion of him.”
Proenza said he approached Tressel for advice when he was looking for a replacement for fired football coach Rob Ianello in December.
The talks flowered into bigger conversations on what Tressel could do for UA. He already had a kinship with the university, as he earned a master’s degree here in 1977 and was an assistant football coach and phys ed instructor from 1975 to 1978.
“Our vision for student success was exceptionally closely aligned,” Proenza said.
Yet what that may mean hasn’t been firmed up.
Tressel said he will spend his first few weeks on the job listening; Proenza said he would be grateful if he would devote even 5 percent of his time to fundraising.
Proenza said this appointment, more than any other in his 13 years at UA, sweeps across all dimensions – from recruiting students, to helping them succeed to linking them with jobs after they graduate.
Tressel will be expected to help implement Vision 2020, Proenza’s plan to build enrollment from 30,000 to 40,000 in eight years, increase research from the $50 million of today to $200 million by the end of the decade and through the University Park Alliance to remake 50 depressed blocks in the heart of the city. The university is developing the Akron Experience to provide students with on- and off-campus connections.
“His input will help to adjust our programs,” Provost Mike Sherman, another hire from Ohio State said. “He brings to the University of Akron the same philosophy he had at Ohio State. It’s about life. There’s a great match there.”
Some of Tressel’s focus will be in the same fields as that of other administrators already in place.
For example, UA has a vice president of student engagement and success, Charles Fey; vice president Candace Campbell Jackson help lead strategic partnerships and initiatives.
But Tressel’s appointment clearly has brought UA an avalanche of publicity.
Dozens of media attended the Thursday press conference at the UA Honors College – the biggest in the university’s history, bigger than the announcement of plans for Infocision Stadium, bigger than the announcement of Proenza’s own appointment.
“It was overwhelming,” Proenza said. “I’ve never had six or eight reporters with microphones in front of me.”
Media questions were gentle and respectful and only briefly grazed Tressel’s fall from grace at Ohio State for ethics violations.
None of them inquired about Tressel’s salary, which will be modest compared to his $3.5 million paycheck at OSU.
He will join UA in May with an annual salary of $200,000, with a $10,000 raise in July 2013. According to a letter from Proenza, Tressel retired from the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System in June 2011.
If he is fired from the UA job, he will get six months pay. He can claim up to $15,000 in moving expenses.
For UA, it is the fourth top-level hire in as many months.
Eileen Korey was named head of public relations at $170,000, Wayne Hill, marketing, at $170,000; and Terry Bowden, football coach, at a base of $300,000. Tressel’s position is new. Korey and Hill’s jobs were split from a single position.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at 330-996-3729 or firstname.lastname@example.org.