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Could Youngstown State make Jim Tressel their president?

We already knew that The Senator was getting some traction for one university presidency vacancy. Could a second university step into the mix?

Jamie Sabau

The fact that some associated with a university are kicking the tires on hiring former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel isn't breaking news. We wrote about this last April, with some in the Akron community clamoring for Tressel to be promoted to the school's top job. Since Akron hasn't hired a new president yet, or even started the interview process, that might still happen.

However, it looks like a new school could potentially enter the President Tressel sweepstakes: Youngstown State – or at least if Rep. Tim Ryan and a slew of business and community leaders in Youngstown get their way.

Youngstown State is in a bit of a pickle. Last year, the school thought they had found their next leader when they signed former Murray State president Randy Dunn. Just seven months on the job though, Dunn announced a surprise decision to leave to accept the presidency at Southern Illinois, where he grew up. That move was brokered by the search firm that brought Michael Drake to Ohio State, and it's a move that is typically regarded as a no-no in the headhunting community. The sudden departure has left Youngstown State behind the eight ball, and finding a leader who is likely to stick around for a while will be a key point for their next search.

If only there was a higher education administrator with strong ties to Youngstown State and the surrounding community....

Rep. Ryan, who thought that the university should have contacted Tressel the first time around, hand-delivered a letter that was signed by multiple members of the Youngstown business community, urging the school to consider Tressel. When asked for comment, Tressel simply said that he's happy with his job at Akron.

From the letter:

As long time supporters of Youngstown State University, we are writing to offer our full and unequivocal support behind Jim Tressel to be the next President of Youngstown State University. We hope that the Board considers moving expeditiously to make this happen. We all have known Jim personally for many years and strongly believe that he will bring all of the skill and experience needed to lead Youngstown State University forward. He understands the importance of YSU's relationship to the cities of Youngstown, Warren, our surrounding communities, America Makes, the Youngstown Business Incubator and the role of STEM in our future economic initiatives. He knows the importance of university collaborations with the private sector and local workforce. And he has the relationships and obvious leadership skills to build both the financial and organizational support for the YSU initiatives that will grow the University and broader economy.

What does Youngstown State say about this?

"After we announce the actual process, if Jim Tressel is interested he should apply for it like anybody else. Because we want to treat everybody very fairly," Dr. Garg said

So just how likely is this to happen?

To recap what we wrote before, it isn't hard to see the potential appeal of Tressel. A large part of the role of a university president is fundraising, and the stature that comes with hiring somebody as famous and popular as Tressel could potentially be a big boon. Since both Akron and Youngstown State fight hard for exposure, an out of the box hire could vault the school to headlines. Finally, while the guy is still fairly new in his university administration job, he's already been promoted, and would appear to be doing well enough of a job to continue to be mentioned for jobs like these.

The negatives are still very pronounced, however, and for my money, make a move to hire Tressel a longshot at best. Unlike the vast majority of university presidents, Jim Tressel is neither an academic (he doesn't have a PhD), nor a politician (the most popular profession for non-academic presidents). While being the head coach at Ohio State is very much like being a CEO of a large organization, that might be a harder sell to some of the academics at either Akron or Youngstown State. Tressel has only worked in university administration for a few years, and the jump from vice president of strategic engagement (his current job) to president could be a steep one. It isn't much of an exaggeration to say that Tress getting a president job would be like another school hiring Archie Griffin to be their president.

Plus, Tressel might still want to get back into coaching at some point. And then there's that whole tattoo business. No matter what, there's going to be a "Tressel Lied/Roll Tide" segment of the population, and probably the press, that the school will have to deal with.

Either way, it's clear that The Vest still holds considerable sway with a lot of people in Northern Ohio, and whatever he decides to do with the rest of his career, it's clear that he's going to have a lot of options.

Personally, while I think it's unlikely, I'd love to see somebody hire him – if only because it would be the ultimate troll job to the NCAA.