OSU President Gordon Gee: Money in the bank, foot in mouth

[To listen to the audio version, click here: Bacon_final_President_Gee_for_web_with_open_for_6-7-2013]

Ohio State University president Gordon Gee’s ability to put money in the bank – both his and his university’s — was equaled only by his ability to put his foot in his mouth.  Well, this week he was finally fired – er, retired.  Entirely voluntarily, of course.  Not pushed at all.  Nooooo.

Over his long career as president of West Virginia, Colorado, Brown, Vanderbilt and Ohio State — twice — Gee has raised billions of dollars, while delivering a seemingly endless stream of gaffes, slanders and just plain stupid comments, which culminated in his unexpected departure.

In politics, they say, when a man is busy shooting himself in the foot, don’t grab the gun.  In that spirit, I’ll let the man’s words speak for themselves.

In 1992, when the Buckeyes ended their four-game losing streak against Michigan with a 13-13 tie, and Gee said, “This tie is one of our greatest wins ever.”  Ooo-kay.

But Gee really got on a roll starting in 2010, when he said that, unlike Boise State and Texas Christian University, “We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor.”  That little gem prompted him to pay the Little Sisters of the Poor — which, it turns out, really exists.  But he claimed his check to the charity was completely unrelated.  Just a nice guy.

The next year, 2011, when football coach Jim Tressel was being investigated, a student reporter asked Gee if he might fire the popular coach.  President Gee replied, “No, are you kidding? Let me just be very clear. I’m just hopeful the coach doesn’t dismiss me.”  Sad fact is, I think he meant it.

Gee followed that in 2012, when he said managing Ohio State’s 18 colleges was similar to leading a Polish army – which, for some reason, a Polish-American group found offensive.  Go figure.

Last week a tape emerged in which Gee insults pretty much everybody he’d somehow missed the previous two decades, including Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, who Gee said was so “aggressive” in his pursuit of money, “we need to make certain he keeps his hands out of our pockets.”

He added that the Big Ten would never invite Louisville to join the league because it lacks “academic integrity,” then went after the entire Southeastern Conference: “You tell the SEC when they learn to read and write, then they can figure out what we’re doing” in the Big Ten.

But wasn’t done.  He hit his highlight when somebody asked him why Notre Dame wasn’t invited to join the Big Ten.   “The Fathers are holy on Sunday,” he replied, “and they’re holy hell the rest of the week. You just can’t trust those damn Catholics on a Thursday or a Friday, and so, literally, I can say that.”  Yes, literally, he said that.

Not surprisingly, he spent this week apologizing to all of the above, while canceling a commencement speech at a Catholic high school.  Probably a good idea.

He also released an official statement: “I recently returned from a vacation with my family, during which time I had a chance to consider the university’s phenomenal achievements and the road that lies ahead for it.”

That’s pretty nice.  But that’s not all he thought about.  No.

“I also spent some time in self-reflection. And after much deliberation, I have decided it is now time for me to turn over the reins of leadership to allow the seeds that we have planted to grow.”

But just in case you cynics out there were wondering, he repeatedly maintained that his sudden retirement had nothing to do with his comments.

And that was the best whopper of them all.

* * * * *

Please join the conversation, but remember: I run only those letters from those who are profane or insane, and who include their FULL name. 

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7 comments Leave a comment  

  • John W Minton Jr June 7, 2013 at 7:17 am


    Unfortunately, when the board chair and the board told Gordon Gee that it was time to go, they didn’t have the courage to say that he was fired. This guy is the most fired president in the history of college presidents. I wonder what institution will take this guy on to shake their sugar tree.


  • Don Hammond June 7, 2013 at 9:05 am

    “I wonder what institution will take this guy on to shake their sugar tree.”

    Any institution whose lust for cash outweighs the embarrassment at hiring the guy. I bet there are more of those than we’d want to believe.

  • Kevin BoBo June 7, 2013 at 9:17 am

    For your next article, why don’t you write a story on how Gene Smith won the 2013 NAAC Organizational Leadership Award, from the National Association for Athletics Compliance.

    I assume that Catholics and the SEC do not get a vote in the National Association for Athletics Compliance?

  • Rich Childers June 7, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    Where’s Waldo??…NOT IN COLUMBUS!!…Finally…The spewing mouth has SUDDENLY retired…A man of such power and prestige??…The leader of the Luckeyes?…WHAT??…Mr.Gee…The typical man of power…who ran his mouth like a Singer sewing machine….(Which pretty much says BUCKNUT)….is out…I think the other alum…said…Dont let the door hit ya…where the good Lord split ya…Good riddence…a total disgrace to the Big Ten…

  • BenWinoker June 7, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    First “gaffe” is clearly talking about a moral victory.
    Gee wasn’t the first person to liken bad teams to little sisters of the poor. Here’s someone using it in 2008 – http://www.city-data.com/forum/pro-football/433617-cheeseheads-packer-thread.html
    You THINK he meant he hopes Tressel doesn’t fire him. I think you’re wrong and exaggerating. The rest of your article helps this case.
    I never served in the Polish Army, but I don’t see why that’s offensive, unless the Polish Army is known for having many branches and having that lead to its downfall? Probably his most offensive comment of the lot though.
    Really? THAT’s an insult to Delaney? Basically -We need to keep our universities finances in order while we admire and support him. We want the Big 10 to expand but not at our financial expense. Reading the entire quote and looking at context is key.
    He said Louisville didn’t match the B1g 10′s academic integrity. Was he wrong? Not if you ask US News and World Report – B1G teams (including Maryland and Rutgers) average ~62 nationally. Rutgers is worst at 115. Louisville sits at 160. Kentucky is 125.
    His comment about the SEC was in response to people supporting the SEC saying that the Big 10 can’t count because they’ll have 14 members and are still called the Big 10. Math jab countered with literacy jab. Both clearly jokes. Not a big deal. Context still key.
    You gave more context with the Notre Dame thing, but you don’t seem to understand it, let me help. The people who are in charge of Notre Dame are first and foremost identified as religious leaders. Even though they have doctorates they go by Reverend or Father. Gee has negotiated with these specific Catholics, and if anyone is qualified to say someone representing a notoriously difficult to negotiate with group is “holy hell” why wouldn’t it be someone who has continuously been trying to negotiate them?
    Surprised you didn’t add in and try to twist his quoting someone talking bad about Bielema or his factual, unofficial explanation as to why Cincinnati wasn’t a candidate for the B1G (which includes, “We love Cincinnati as a city).
    People like you are the reason Gee is out of a job. I’m sure you’re satisfied.

  • Nick Roumel June 8, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    BenWinoker’s defense of Gee is interesting, because he ends by assuming that Gee was lying when he said he left his job voluntarily (when accusing “people like [Bacon]” as the reason Gee is “out of a job.”) Ben, if Gee’s comments about Poles, Catholics, literacy, and greed don’t bother you, what about his dishonesty?

    • BenWinoker June 9, 2013 at 10:20 am

      I’m far from the only person who assumes that Gee was “encouraged” to resign. This happens all the time with public figures. They rarely get “fired.” Nixon “resigned.” I think that was a nod to Gee’s incredible service to the university that the board allows him to save a little bit of face.


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