Andy Gottesman / Multimedia editor
Silence can be deafening, and Ohio State’s closed-lip policy could be a sign that the university wasn’t prepared for what transpired Monday.
The football team’s boss resigned, but his bosses are being shielded, and local public relations experts say OSU’s apparent lack of preparation and absence of open communication is “dangerous.”
Following the departure of Jim Tressel, the third-winningest coach in OSU football history, the university has, for the most part, kept quiet.
President E. Gordon Gee released a statement Monday morning informing faculty of Tressel’s resignation.
But university spokesman Jim Lynch said Gee was “out of the state” on Monday and wouldn’t speak to anyone until he returned, if at all.
On Tuesday, Lynch said Gee had returned to Ohio, but told The Lantern in an email, “We are making a list of all the requests and we will entertain the opportunity if we chose to do any interviews at a later date.”
In his office Monday morning, Tressel submitted his letter of resignation to athletic director Gene Smith, who released a three-minute video statement shortly after. Smith has no further plans to speak to the media, athletic department spokesman Dan Wallenberg told The Lantern.
On Tuesday, Wallenberg told The Lantern that players will not be made available to the media “through at least the end of final exams.”
Access to the university’s athletic department offices on the seventh floor of the Fawcett Center was restricted on Tuesday. The building’s elevators were only operational with valid identification.
The front desk attendant said he did not know the reason for the lockdown and directed a request for photos and interviews to Wallenberg.
“I think we’ll pass on that,” Wallenberg told The Lantern. Wallenberg said all requests for access must be submitted in advance, and directed The Lantern to Lynch.
The Lantern had a quarterly interview scheduled with Smith for Wednesday afternoon. Smith’s secretary, Beth Mullinix, called Friday morning to reschedule the interview.
Mullinix told The Lantern on Tuesday that there was no timetable for when the interview could be rescheduled. When asked if it would be “days, weeks or months,” Mullinix replied, “We’ll let you know.”
Tressel hasn’t spoken, either. He could not be reached for comment and a man who answered the door at his house Monday told The Lantern he wasn’t home and didn’t know when he would return.
The university did provide The Lantern his letter of resignation Monday.
The Lantern reached out to Doug Archie, the university’s director of compliance. His secretary said he was out for the day, but would contact The Lantern “sometime this week.”
Angie Palmer, founder of Skye PR, a Columbus public relations firm, said OSU’s lack of open communication could be detrimental.
“It’s about informing the public and also responding to what is going to happen so you have to be proactive and reactive in some way,” Palmer said. “I don’t really recommend anybody or any organization to not respond to any comments.
“You can still respond, you can say ‘We are taking care of, we are looking into the matter and once we figure it out or have more details, we would either issue a press release or organize a press conference to answer all your questions and concerns,’ instead of shutting everyone out and not saying why you are doing that.”
The lack of openness could push people to speculate about what’s next, Palmer said.
“Even if there are some big things coming up, or they are just looking into it, I think communication is important to let people know what they are working on,” Palmer said. “Especially for a very high-profile team.”
Steve Wilson, a crisis management specialist with Wilson Group Communications in Columbus, said he thinks OSU wasn’t prepared for the recent series of events.
“They were probably caught up in wishful thinking that the worst was not going to happen, and that’s dangerous,” Wilson said.
As for moving forward, Wilson said it could be a long time before OSU’s reputation is repaired.
“I think that they’ve got a long way to go to recapture the image they had in the past,” Wilson said. “I think they can recover but I think it’s going to take a long time.”
Blake Williams, Thomas Bradley and Gordon Gantt contributed to this story.