It’s strangely comforting to learn that universities don’t only sell their morals up the river for wins and losses on the football field.
They will also, apparently, put up with plenty of bad press from presidents with a propensity for delivering the goods on the fundraising trail.
Such appears to be the case for Ohio State president Gordon Gee, who made yet another public speaking gaffe late last year. The mistake came to light Thursday, courtesy the Associated Press.
One could – and should – argue that winning football games and tolerating repeated public embarrassments because of a president’s fundraising prowess are one in the same. Few programs of major universities produce more money than the nation’s top football programs.
Consider it the most recent chapter of major universities becoming more big business than higher learning.
Gee’s off-color remarks focused on Notre Dame, Louisville and the SEC. Two of the three – minus Louisville – are fairly common punching bags on the national speaking circuit.
Gee said of the SEC: “You tell the SEC when they can learn to read and write, then they can figure out what they’re doing.” That comment came in response to a question about the SEC making fun of the Big Ten having 14 league members.
If you made many of the comments that have left Gee in trouble, they probably would have been funny – or at least borderline funny. Then again, odds are you aren’t the president of a major university.
Therein lies the problem. The man with a tremendous talent for getting prospective donors to write checks consistently places his loafers – and not his money – where his mouth is.
Gee reportedly apologized to Notre Dame president John Jenkins for making comments such as, “You just can’t trust those damn Catholics…”
Previously, Gee’s words created trouble when, in light of the indelible tattoo ink that stained former coach Jim Tressel’s career, he hoped Tressel “doesn’t dismiss me.” Three months later Tressel resigned as a result of a scandal in which his players traded memorabilia for cash and tattoos.
In 2010, Gee also made headlines by saying TCU and other mid-major programs played “Little Sisters of the Poor.” Again, the comment itself isn’t in poor taste for most Americans. It probably has no place coming from a major university president.
The Associated Press reports Gee is currently in the midst of a $2.5 billion campaign at Ohio State. He has undergone a remediation plan since making his most recent comments.