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Gee issues email on apologies to Big Ten, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema

OSU President E. Gordon Gee.

Lantern file photo

Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee issued another statement to the OSU community Sunday, explaining how he has apologized for his offensive remarks that have drawn backlash.

In a Sunday email, Gee said he apologized to the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors that morning for his “hurtful remarks” that were intended to be humorous.

Gee said his apology was accepted.

He specifically commented about his “respect and admiration” for the University of Wisconsin. In the recording, Gee made comments about former Wisconsin football coach Bret Bielema, claiming that the Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez thought the coach was a “thug.”

Bielema is heading into his first season of coaching at the University of Arkansas, a Southeastern Conference school.

Gee said in the email his comments about the coach were “unfounded, inaccurate, and unfair.”

“Without question, Coach Bielema is a remarkably successful professional,” the statement said.

Gee also said Bielema accepted his apology. On Friday, Bielema posted a photo on his Twitter account, @bretbielema, of a personal apology email from Gee along with “It’s a start from Mr. Gee. Will take his apology and phone call soon.”

Aside from his comments about Bielema, the recording of Gee speaking at a Dec. 5 OSU Athletic Council meeting includes him joking that “those damn Catholics” of Notre Dame can’t be trusted and that’s why the university was never invited into the Big Ten.

He was also recorded saying Notre Dame’s priests are “holy on Sunday, and they’re holy hell on the rest of the week.”

In addition, he made statements about the academic integrity of the SEC conference. Gee said as a Big Ten president, it’s his job is to make sure the conference is comprised of schools that value academics, which is why “you won’t see us adding Louisville,” a Big East school, or the University of Kentucky, an SEC school.

Gee’s comments recently became public, and have been a source of controversy for the president, with some calling for his termination or resignation on social media.

A March 11 letter from Chairman of the OSU Board of Trustees Robert Schottenstein to Gee on the subject of his comments was obtained by The Lantern, where it was written that Gee’s inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated.

“On occasion your words that may be intended to bring a bit of levity to some significant issues have, in fact, had the opposite effect,” the letter said. “There have been occasions on which your comments were insensitive and inappropriate and have offended others.”

The letter continued on to say Gee’s words have in the past “embarrassed and divided us” and any comments that detract from the “core values and message” of the university are not acceptable.

Future mishaps will result in punitive action, including dismissal, the letter said.

Gee, who has a history of making questionable remarks, apologized in an email statement to OSU faculty, students and staff Friday.

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