Posted: 9:39 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013
By Matt Brown
There are a lot of words that you can use to describe Jim Tressel. Former football coach. Ohio State legend. University administrator. Punt game aficionado. Less-than-trustworthy- raffle operator.
Perhaps there may be a new word we can use Tressel in the near future. University President. Not of Ohio State, but for Akron, where he currently works as a vice president for strategic engagement.
No, seriously. From our friends at the Columbus Dispatch:
University of Akron President Luis Proenza announced yesterday that he is stepping down, according to an Akron Beacon Journal report.
Proenza, 68, has been president at Akron for 14 years, making him the longest continuing public-college president in Ohio. He is to remain president through June, take a yearlong sabbatical, then return to the university as a full-time professor and president emeritus.
Many rumors suggest that Tressel, a University of Akron vice president for strategic engagement since February 2012, will be named interim president or president when Proenza departs.
“He’s probably going to be a candidate, but that’s about all we can say at this point,” university trustee chairman Richard Pogue said in an interview with the Beacon Journal on Monday. “ We’re not in any rush.”
So the thinking behind this isn't totally irrational. If one of the main job duties of a university president is to raise money, having a well known, and still mostly well liked leader out in front could be a smart move. Adding Tressel would put Akron on near the front pages of just about every newspaper in Ohio, not just the Chronicle of Higher Education, and help raise awareness of the school's brand. Tressel has also already worked in Akron's administration, and presumably has done a solid enough job building networks with key personnel to be considered for such a big promotion very quickly.
Still, there would be some pretty significant red flags to a potential President Tressel candidacy. For starters, unlike most university presidents, he's not an academic (although he did get a master's degree in education from Akron back in 1977), and has comparatively very little experience in university administration, holding his engagement position at Akron only since 2012. While bringing in non-academics to lead major universities isn't unheard of (Mitch Daniels, for example, is the head of Purdue), these are typically politicians, with access to potential fundraising or clout channels that may elude even somebody of Tressel's stature. It's entirely possible that many academics at Akron (or perhaps politicians in Ohio), may raise objections that Tressel doesn't have the full academic experiences needed to be an effective leader.
Plus, there is the whole Tressel Lied Roll Tide segment of the population, which would either point to a Tressel presidency as being THE glaring example of misplaced university priorities on athletics (and now a football coach is running the university?!?), or point to his NCAA transgressions as proof that the man lacks the moral character needed to lead. Plus, the idea of President Tressel dealing with the NCAA could be, I dunno, a teensy bit awkward maybe?
Potential drawbacks aside, we already know Tressel to be a strong leader, and a more than capable head of a large organization with heavy pressures. Running the Ohio State football empire is not unlike being a CEO, requiring strong delegation, hiring, administrative and public relations skills. If at the very least, Akron wants a capable caretaker while they search for a more seasoned academic leader, they really could do worse than Jim Tressel.
Of course, this is probably just Tressel's seasoning so he can fulfill his true calling, becoming President of The Ohio State University. And for that, well, he has my full support (unless we can get Bill Clinton or something).