Andy gottesman / Multimedia editor
Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee doesn’t take himself seriously.
As a result, he’s made comments about football that have placed him under scrutiny — remarks that he’s later regretted.
Gee told The Lantern editorial board on Wednesday that he regrets making a statement at a March 8 press conference in which football coach Jim Tressel apologized for withholding information vital to an NCAA investigation.
When asked at the press conference if any thought had been given to firing Tressel, Gee replied, with a chuckle, “I hope he doesn’t fire me.”
The sarcastic statement overshadowed the meandering speech Tressel offered minutes earlier.
“I sometimes need to extricate my foot from my mouth,” Gee told The Lantern editorial board. “I admit that. But I have been that way for 30 years.”
It’s not the first time this academic year that Gee has apologized for a football-related comment.
On Nov. 24, 2010, Gee told the Associated Press that Boise State and TCU, both undefeated at the time, didn’t deserve to play in the BCS Championship.
“Well, I don’t know enough about the X’s and O’s of college football,” Gee told the AP. “I do know, having been both a Southeastern Conference president and a Big Ten president, that it’s like murderer’s row every week for these schools. We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor. We play very fine schools on any given day.”
Gee told The Lantern in January that he would try to censor his sports talk.
“I’m being more careful about what I say about sports,” Gee said. “University presidents, particularly of large universities, particularly of this institution, lose their First Amendment rights.”
Gee said his personality is to blame.
“I have fun doing what I’m doing,” he said, “and the minute that I wake up in the morning, if I’m not enjoying myself and having fun, then I’m going to get out of the business. That’s how I’ve survived for 30 years. It’s just a way for me to deal with issues.
“I take my work very seriously. I do not take myself very seriously. I never have, never will.”
OSU suspended Tressel for the first two games of the 2011 season and fined him $250,000. Tressel later increased his own suspension to five games. Attorney Christopher Cicero emailed Tressel between April and June 2010 with information regarding several OSU football players making contact with the owner of Fine Line Ink tattoo parlor, Eddie Rife, who was under legal investigation for drugs.
Tressel kept the information to himself.
The NCAA suspended quarterback Terrelle Pryor and five other players on Dec. 23 for selling memorabilia to Rife and receiving discounted tattoos at the parlor.
Gee said his opinion of Tressel never wavered, despite the coach’s wrongdoing.
“Jim Tressel, I think, is a very fine person, and I have great faith in him as both a coach and an individual,” he said. “That’s the reason that we decided to suspend him and not do anything more.”