Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee is receiving backlash from the university after making negative statements about the Southeastern Conference and Notre Dame.
If he slips up again, it could cost him his job.
A recording of Gee speaking at a Dec. 5 OSU Athletic Council meeting includes him joking that “those damn Catholics” of Notre Dame can’t be trusted and that’s why the university was never invited into the Big Ten.
He was also recorded saying Notre Dame’s priests are “holy on Sunday, and they’re holy hell on the rest of the week.”
He also made statements about the academic integrity of the SEC conference. Gee said as a Big Ten president, it’s his job is to make sure the conference is comprised of schools that value academics, which is why “you won’t see us adding Louisville,” a Big East school, or the University of Kentucky, an SEC school.
Gee’s comments recently became public, and have been a source of controversy for the president, with some calling for his termination or resignation on social media.
A March 11 letter from Chairman of the OSU Board of Trustees Robert Schottenstein to Gee on the subject of his comments was obtained by The Lantern, where it was written that Gee’s inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated.
“On occasion your words that may be intended to bring a bit of levity to some significant issues have, in fact, had the opposite effect,” the letter said. “There have been occasions on which your comments were insensitive and inappropriate and have offended others.”
The letter continued on to say Gee’s words have in the past “embarrassed and divided us” and any comments that detract from the “core values and message” of the university are not acceptable.
Future mishaps will result in punitive action, including dismissal, the letter said.
Gee, who has a history of making questionable remarks, apologized in an email statement to OSU faculty, students and staff Friday.
“I write today to acknowledge some statements I made last December in a poor attempt at humor. I am deeply sorry for the discomfort I caused, which was wholly unintentional, “ Gee said. “More broadly, I want to apologize to all who were offended by my remarks, to the University community, and to our entire Ohio State family.”
The statement also said there was “no excuse” for his comments, and the comments don’t reflect OSU’s values.
A similar message also came from his Twitter account @presidentgee Thursday.
“I am truly sorry for my comments—such attempts at humor do not reflect Ohio State values, nor my role as its president,” the tweet said.
The letter from Schottenstein also told Gee to take immediate corrective steps including apologizing to the offended groups, engaging with a coach that will assist him in strengthening his “global presence and voice,” getting assistance in speech writing and personal communications, reviewing how his time is best spent and being a model for example for “civility, inclusion, and collective aspiration.”
Gee is the third highest paid university president, earning slightly less than $1.9 million in the 2011-2012 fiscal year. Gee has been president at OSU since October 2007, but previously served as university president from 1990-1997.
Listen to audio from the Dec. 5 meeting HERE
Liz Young contributed to this report.