Blog: Has Ohio State's president made one too many 'gaffes'?

9:58 PM, May 30, 2013   |    comments
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Why aren't we surprised that Ohio State's President Gordon Gee is mired in controversy again for his remarks?

He isn't the first public official to make a verbal gaffe -- think Vice President Dan Quayle's spelling or statements or even President George Bush's gaffes -- but Gee's remarks are more mean-spirited than thoughtless.

Look at Quayle's "What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is," or his misspelling of potato as "potatoe" back in 1992.

Then's there's Bush's "Amigo! Amigo!" when he was calling out to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Spanish at the G-8 Summit in Japan in 2008.

Gee, 69, earns about $1.9 million annually in base pay, deferred and performance compensation and retirement benefits -- the highest of any public university president in the U.S. -- and has headed up several institutions of higher learning. He has multiple degrees, including a J.D., and is not making verbal gaffes but judgment gaffes.

What am I talking about?

It came to light Thursday, following a public records request by The Associated Press, that at a December meeting of Ohio State's Athletic Council, Gee, a Mormon, is heard to say in a recording that the University Notre Dame was never invited to join the Big Ten conference because the university's priests are not good partners, joking that "those damn Catholics" can't be trusted.

Gee also took shots at the academic integrity at schools in the Southeastern Conference and the University of Louisville.

Who was at that Dec. 5 meeting? OSU Athletic Director Gene Smith, several other athletic department members, professors and students.  Guess what? Smith is a 1977 ND grad.

"You just can't trust those damn Catholics on a Thursday or a Friday, and so, literally, I can say that," said Gee.

Smith hasn't commented but Ohio State's Board of Trustees has, calling the statements inappropriate and said Gee is undergoing a "remediation plan" because of the remarks.

In a written statement, since Gee was on a long-planned vacation right now, Gee stated: "The comments I made were just plain wrong, and in no way do they reflect what the university stands for."

"They were a poor attempt at humor and entirely inappropriate. There is no excuse for this and I am deeply sorry."

Big Ten Commissioner James Delaney called Gee's remarks "inappropriate" and said they in no way reflect the opinion of the Big Ten. 

Gee also is heard to say on the recording that "The fathers are holy on Sunday, and they're holy hell on the rest of the week."

OK, you get the idea. Know that I am Catholic and went to school in South Bend, Indiana, at both St. Mary's College and the University of Notre Dame. I loved and love Notre Dame football, always have, always will.

Also know that, despite being from Ohio, I never cared much for Ohio State football -- too big, too arrogant, too self-important, in my opinion. (Alabama is my second favorite football program. Roll Tide!)

And that opinion of Ohio State changed drastically after the 1978 Gator Bowl when Ohio State coach Woody Hayes punched Clemson nose guard Charlie Bauman.

Bauman intercepted Ohio State quarterback Art Schlichter's pass and returned it toward the OSU sideline where he was run out of bounds.

After Bauman rose to his feet and looked in the direction of the OSU players, Hayes punched him in the throat, starting a bench-clearing brawl.

Hayes was fired after that. While I never liked Ohio State football, my opinion immediately changed to an extreme dislike. I keep my opinion to myself most of the time, living among Ohio State fans and living in Ohio. 

Is what Hayes did worse than Gee's poor comments? I don't know. I only know that people who are in a position of authority are held to a higher standard. 

And Gee may have finally outlived his welcome at Ohio State. He's also recently come under fire, as reported by the Dayton Daily News, that Ohio State has spent more than $64,000 on bow ties, bow tie cookies and O-H and bow tie pins for Gee and others to distribute.

Ohio taxpayers pay his salary, just like they paid Hayes' salary. Are we getting our money's worth or just getting embarrassed?


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