Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Buckeyes will be just fine without Gee
By Austin Ward
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- If a visit to the school president was needed to impress a recruit, Gordon Gee was there.
Endless support, boundless enthusiasm for athletics? No problem.
Fundraising skills, entertaining personality and trademark fashion? Sure, the Ohio State president had that as well.
Ohio State president Gordon Gee, like former football coach Jim Tressel, is out. But Ohio State's athletic department isn't likely to feel much of an impact.
He also had a penchant for stirring up some trouble with his mouth, and ultimately that helped nudge him into the retirement he announced on Tuesday that will take effect July 1. But even for all those positives that earned him rave reviews from coaches and endeared him to some players before they were even enrolled, it's safe to assume the Buckeyes and their athletic department will be just fine without him calling the shots.
The leadership is already in place when it comes to the most visible parts of the university. And while that's not to diminish Ohio State's reputation as an academic institution, football and men's basketball will always generate more attention and keep alumni engaged better than anything else on campus. And when it comes to those two sports and the boss those coaches report to, it's hard at this point to envision a change in president shaking the foundations already firmly in place.
Gene Smith has faced his share of criticism as athletic director, but particularly with the NCAA sanctions and scandal from the end of Jim Tressel's tenure in his rearview mirror, it's difficult to imagine his job as anything less than secure.
And the résumés of Urban Meyer and Thad Matta speak for themselves.
That stability in leadership alone should keep the athletic department from having any difficulty navigating the water while the waves rock in the president's office, but that's certainly not the only reason the Buckeyes are likely to continue with business as usual on the field and the hardwood.
The money is pouring in for the Big Ten, and Ohio State isn't suddenly going to turn its back on one of the proudest, largest athletic departments in the nation. Regardless of how skilled Gee was at raising funds, donors aren't likely to slow down their giving when the high-profile teams are winning at such an elite level, particularly if a segment of that population was starting to tire of the stream of apologies that Gee had to issue after offending rival coaches or entire religious denominations.
And perhaps most important, the entire saga with Tressel, and even Gee's jokes about his job status then, helped establish a basic principle for the school that is more applicable now than ever. Nobody is bigger than Ohio State, and it is more than willing to move on and more than capable of finding somebody else to continue its traditions.