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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A disappointed Ohio State University grad asks, Gee, President Gee, are you kidding me?

This morning I sent the e-mail below to the president of Ohio State University, where I received my master's degree in journalism. I'll let you know what I hear from him.
There are a lot of grays in life, but some things are black and white. It's no challenge to do the right thing most of the time. What counts is whether you do the right thing when the consequences are ugly and regrettable. For all I've read on the subject, OSU Football Coach Jim Tressel failed by that measure.
Worse was the OSU President Gordon Gee's flip response. There is also a five-page letter to the NCAA from Gee that amazingly concludes that what Tressel did was "indecisiveness ... as opposed to a blatant disregard of NCAA legislation. ... We recognize that he should have forwarded this information in some manor to the appropriate institutional officials. With the exception of this mistake, he is a man of integrity and high moral standards."
What happened, in a nutshell, was that OSU football players sold their memorabilia to a tattoo parlor owner, in violation of NCAA rules, and one may have receive a break on tattoo services. Not the worst thing in the world, but violations. Tressel has been informed of the violations. He not only did nothing about it, and then didn’t own up to it when it came to light.
The students are going to miss five games – next season. The coach is going to miss a mere two games – next season. The school can’t jeopardize this season’s bowl game, of course. The coach is also being fined $250,000, a sizable chunk of change, but then again, he has a multi-million-dollar contract.
It’s swell to have a winning college football team. But when this is the way violations are shrugged off by the people in charge, everyone loses.

You can read and see lots more on this topic on the website of the Columbus Dispatch.
Here’s my e-mail to President Gee. I will update you when I get a response.

TO: Gordon Gee, president OSU
FROM: Barbara Lombardo, managing editor of The Saratogian and 1977 OSU master’s graduate
DATE: March 10, 2011-03-10
RE: Coach Tressel and your comments.

As a graduate of Ohio State University, I am aghast – a word I don’t think I’ve ever used before – at what has been reported as your response to whether Coach Tressel would be let go.
Here are the words you are reported saying: "No. Are you kidding? I'm just hoping the coach doesn't dismiss me."
Are you kidding? Who is running Ohio State University? How can you justify that remark?The relatively minor punishment for Tressel was bad enough. I am stunned that you could say something so flip and, in my judgment, inappropriate.
I have the OSU journalism program and some of its fine professors in the 1976-77 school year to thank for much of the knowledge and confidence I gained while obtaining my master’s degree. I am the managing editor of a daily newspaper, and I intend to share my comments and your response with my readers, in print and online.
I can be reached at this e-mail address,, and by telephone at 518.583.8711.

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Anonymous Derek Lott said...

I was born in Ohio and have been an OSU fan for my entire life. While I agree that what Coach Tressell did may have not been the right way to go about handling this situation, I'm sure all the facts have not yet come to light. The OSU football program since he got there has generally been one of integrity. He has facilitated a program with one of the best graduation rates by his players in the country. I know several former players who will tell you that they are better men for having been a football player under his guidance. His years of dedication and running a very clean program merit a lot of consideration and understanding in this matter. The coach definitely should've brought this to light when the information was made available to him but definitely should not be crucified for making a mistake. There may be mitigating circumstances for his decision. As far as Division I coaches go in this country he has been one that promotes education over football which is a rarity these days. We all make mistakes. I have no problem cutting him a little slack on this one considering his past track record is nearly impeccable

March 10, 2011 at 12:47 PM 

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