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Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel seeks Akron presidency

Former OSU football coach Jim Tressel formally submitted an application for the presidency to the Akron Board of Trustees. Credit: Lantern file photo

Former OSU football coach Jim Tressel formally submitted an application for the presidency to the Akron Board of Trustees.
Credit: Lantern file photo

Former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel has turned his eyes toward another top job — this time at his current university, the University of Akron.

Tressel, who currently is the executive vice president for student success at Akron, formally submitted an application for the presidency to the Akron Board of Trustees, which is serving as the presidential search committee.

Tressel originally wrote to the Board Jan. 25 to express his interest in an interim presidency position while the university looked for a permanent replacement, but a month later on Feb. 25, he submitted a letter applying for the presidency.

He originally wrote that he was worried “the university cannot afford the loss of momentum” associated with a presidential search. He also noted that his experience qualified him as a good candidate.

“It is my opinion that we need more than a leader who can ‘hit the ground running.’ Rather, the university would be better served by a leader who has been ‘on the ground’ with the current team … who is aware of the challenges, talents and commitment of the current leadership team,” Tressel wrote in his letter to the Board.

Akron is currently undergoing a transition plan proposed by President Luis Proenza in August, which states he is set to complete his presidency June 30, by which time the university is slated to have a new leader ready to begin.

Tressel originally said an interim presidency position, rather than the transition position, would save the university money.

“In selecting an interim leader the university will not have to pay for the salary of two presidents – a current sitting president and one on sabbatical. This provides another $500K to $1 million for reinvestment into scholarships, endowed chairs, faculty development, fundraising and strategic partnerships,” he said.

A month later, though, Tressel wrote to the Board again, this time asking its members to accept his “enthusiastic application” for the presidency and outlining his plans for the two-part transition he would instill if he was selected.

“Phase one will involve tough, transparent decisions that may be disruptive to the status quo that will immediately begin to stabilize UA’s fiscal health for the benefit of our students, faculty and employees,” Tressel wrote. “Phase two will involve the university community developing more long-term priorities and plans.”

He again emphasized the importance of a new leader who was already “on the ground.”

Tressel did not respond to an email requesting comment.

As coach at OSU, Tressel compiled a 106-22 record over 10 years and led the Buckeyes to a national championship in his second season at the school, but he resigned in May 2011 after an improper benefits scandal that gained national publicity and has since been dubbed “Tattoo-Gate.”

The NCAA suspended five OSU players for the first five games of the 2011 season for selling memorabilia and receiving improper benefits from a tattoo parlor and its owner. Another player received a one-game ban.

Some OSU students said Tressel’s resignation after the scandal shouldn’t affect his candidacy for the presidency.

Hope Vaccaro, a first-year in psychology, said the coach served well during his time at OSU and his former resignation and recent application are two different entities.

“He definitely was a big icon at (OSU) and he wore it well. I don’t think one should be connected to the other,” Vaccaro said. “He played a big role in keeping the team together … It’s nice seeing a fellow Buckeye keep it in the state.”

Sam Perozek, a fifth-year in mechanical engineering, agreed Tressel leaving OSU shouldn’t affect his potential position at Akron.

“I’ve heard him talk in a small setting. I like the guy,” Perozek said. “I’m kind of glad to see him get back on his feet.”

There are 14 other applicants for the presidency listed on Akron’s presidential search website as of Tuesday. Only one other applicant is currently employed at the university – Martin Belsky, a professor of law.

The Board has no set number of applicants for the presidency and plans to accept applications until the position is filled, according to the Akron presidential search website.

Akron hired the same search firm OSU used when looking for a new president earlier this year, R. William Funk & Associates. Akron is paying the company $120,000 plus expenses which include “direct, out-of-pocket expenditures incurred on the institution’s behalf, as well as administrative and support expenses (10 percent of the retainer),” according to the site.

OSU paid the company more than $220,000 during its search, including the a $200,000 fixed fee, $20,000 for administrative and support expenses and an undetermined amount of other monthly, direct out-of-pocket expenses.

Tressel said he believes he could be of good service to the Akron community in his new role.

“Put simply, I believe I am the right leader for this time,” Tressel wrote in his second letter.

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