Youngstown: Jim Tressel ducked a pointed question Monday: Would he rather be president at the University of Akron or Youngstown State?
The UA executive vice president took the tactful route, saying: “Neither school has asked me, so I haven’t had to think about it.
“I know I didn’t answer your question. I meant not to answer your question,” he said to laughter.
Tressel, 61, attracted a standing-room-only crowd of about 150 as he made a public pitch in Youngstown to be president of YSU.
His presentation was similar to the one he made Thursday at UA for a similar job as the university’s top administrator. He made many of the same points: that students are burdened by too much debt and deserve a diverse, global education to prepare them for the future; that teamwork is essential; that it is crucial to retain students.
He painted an optimistic picture for YSU, one of the smallest of Ohio’s tax-supported universities and which, like UA, faces falling enrollment and budget troubles.
“The sky’s the limit for Youngstown State,” he said. “There’s nothing we can’t do.”
He also sprinkled comments about his long association with YSU into the hourlong presentation in the trustees’ glass-walled conference room.
He recollected his days as Penguins football coach and athletic director between 1986 and 2000. He compiled a 135-57-2 record and won four NCAA I-AA national championships as football coach at YSU.
He reported how he once told a YSU presidential candidate that students would do better emotionally and physically if they took a one-hour class in physical education every term.
Tressel said he still thinks it’s a good idea: “We may have a new initiative here,” he suggested to more laughter.
He and his wife, Ellen, have been longtime financial supporters of YSU, contributing more than $23 million for the stadium, a training center and other projects, according to his resume.
Just like at UA, his presentation drew approval from the audience.
“I think he is a believable candidate,” said Dr. Stephen Rodabaugh, associate dean of science, technology, engineering and math. “I think he would make an effective president. I hope he chooses us over Akron U.”
Madonna Pinkard, a part-time instructor in communications, said Tressel’s talk was “reflective”
“I’m going to put it out there,” Pinkard said. “He’s good. He’s Jim. He’s ours.”
Tressel faces two other finalists for the YSU job: Southern Oregon University President Mary Cullinan and Gary L. Miller, chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Miller visits YSU today and Cullinan on Wednesday for the daylong interviews and public forums.
The finalists won’t have too long to wait. YSU trustee and search committee member Carole Weimer said she hopes it reaches a decision in the next week.
Meanwhile, UA trustees met in executive session Monday with constituent groups that interviewed UA’s three finalists — Tressel, Ronald Nykiel and Scott Scarborough — last week.
UA is expected to name its next president in the next couple of weeks, definitely by Memorial Day. Both universities hope to have a new president in place by July 1.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at email@example.com or 330-996-3729.