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Ohio State tried to hire the president of Cornell to replace Gordon Gee

The search was cloaked in secrecy, but now that the presidential search is over, will the names of other candidates get leaked?


As high profile job searches go, the search to replace Gordon Gee as Ohio State's next university president was remarkably short on public leaks. Now that the search is over, with the university selecting UC-Irvine head Michael Drake, we may see a few more names surface. Per the Columbus Dispatch, one of those candidates was the then president of Cornell, David J. Skorton.

From the Dispatch's Collin Binkley:

A search firm hired by Ohio State University tried to recruit the president of Cornell University early in the search for a new OSU leader, and offered to call off conversations with all other candidates if he was interested. 

Records released by Ohio State this morning show no evidence that Cornell President David J. Skorton ever replied to Bill Funk, whose Texas firm led the $600,000 search process. In March, after the OSU search had ended, the Smithsonian Institution hired Skorton the next leader for the national museum system.

So Skorton wasn't as high on Ohio State as the search firm was on him, which is understandable, given that becoming the leader of the Smithsonian museum system is a pretty great job as well. Skorton will leave Cornell to run the musuems. 

The appeal of Skorton is easy to see. In addition to coming from a highly regarded Ivy league institution, he had Big Ten ties as the former president of the University of Iowa. He's also a cardiologist, and with Ohio State's emphasis on their hospital system and medical research, a medical background would look even more attractive. 

Are there any other clues about other candidates Ohio State may have considered?

The only clues about finalists are in invoices from Ohio State's account with NetJets. Between November and February, Ohio State paid for 10 flights between Columbus and airports in three other cities: Santa Ana, Calif., Lincoln, Neb., and Atlanta.

That doesn't necessarily tell us anything, as any college football fan who tracked flights to get ahead of coaching searches could tell you. Santa Ana, by the way, is near Irvine, where Michael Drake was. For what it's worth, the president of Georgia Tech has an engineering background, and the president of Nebraska is a lawyer. The last possible clue?

Ohio State paid $85,000 to advertise the search in The New York Times.

It will be interesting to see if other potential candidates are leaked in the months to come. On paper, it seems like Skorton would have been a more attractive choice.