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An Associated Press reporter at Muirfield Village Golf Club late last week alerted me to a story about Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee that had hit the wire moments before.
“There’s about to be a mushroom cloud over Columbus,” he said.
It turns out there was a delayed explosion. E. Gordon was too busy apologizing to do anything else, but Tuesday afternoon, there was detonation, and that cloud appeared over the capital city and the rest of our state.
Gee said he will retire on July 1 in the aftermath of his most recent verbal gaffe(s) and the division and embarrassment they heaped upon his university.
By most criteria, Gee is a superstar college president. He is among the highest paid in the country and has headed five different universities — OSU on two occasions. He left all on sounder footing and with a greater appreciation for bow ties.
He had a little trouble with athletics, though. It’s the so-called toys-and-games department, and it is where he always felt he could enjoy a little levity. But it wasn’t always funny with the master of malapropism, although there was often overreaction.
Like the time he cast aspersions on other college football programs by saying the Buckeyes would never, like them, schedule the Little Sisters of the Poor.
Some thought that offensive — although I have no idea why, considering the line has been used millions of times — to the real Little Sisters of the Poor here in the Toledo area, which Gee didn’t realize actually existed. So he apologized, visited, brought along Brutus and a few cheerleaders, danced to the OSU fight song with the Mother Superior, and made a day of it.
Personally, I think Gee should apologize to the good sisters for next fall’s OSU schedule. I’m not sure they couldn’t give the Buckeyes a better game than either Buffalo or Florida A&M.
But I digress.
Never was Gee more out of his element than at the press conference where he should have fired Jim Tressel, only to answer a question by saying he hoped the coach didn’t dismiss him.
If that wasn’t the lowlight, then his most recent comments were.
For the past few days he has been apologizing nonstop to “those damn Catholics” in general and Notre Dame in particular; to former Wisconsin coaching “thug” Bret Bielema and his new employer, the University of Arkansas; to the good folks of the Southeastern Conference (these presumably were verbal apologies to people who can neither read nor write); to schools such as Cincinnati and Louisville, which would never be allowed to even bottom feed in the Big Ten, to his own school, his own conference; and we guess to the Knights of Columbus, especially those Knights in Columbus.
His comments came not at a pep rally or boosters gathering, but at an official meeting of the OSU Athletic Council in December. Trustees met in private twice thereafter to reflect, and while they took no public action, they did put in writing that any future faux pas could result in “punitive action, including dismissal.”
Like Gee dealing with Tressel, the trustees lacked the nerve to do what should have been done. It turned out that after a bit of reflection, E. Gordon had the good sense to fire himself.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.