Tressel to lead Youngstown State

Former coach says he will need to prove himself


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A jubilant group of Youngstown State University alumni and trustees welcomed former football coach James P. Tressel as their university president, after the board came to easy agreement over his compensation.

Mr. Tressel, in remarks after the board of trustees announced his appointment, acknowledged that he will need to prove himself as university president but pledged to dedicate his every effort to increasing the university's excellence for students and for the region.

The area is undergoing a "renaissance of the tech belt with Youngstown State University as the center," he told the audience of several hundred inside Kilcawley Center on campus.

"We know it's up to us to make a tremendous impact on this region," Mr. Tressel said in improvised remarks. "From pre-K to Ph.D., we will have an impact on this region."

Board chairman Sudershan Garg said Mr. Tressel was the clear choice among the candidates and he had no qualms that the new president had spent most of his career as a football coach at institutions including Youngstown State and Ohio State University.

"He looked like the most sincere and communicative candidate," Dr. Garg said. "He was able to make a connection with the board and the audience at every meeting at which he was present."

Mr. Tressel, he said, was offered the same salary as his predecessor -- $375,000 a year for three years -- but turned it down because he wanted less in his first two years.

Mr. Tressel asked for an annual salary of $300,000 in the first two years and an undetermined amount in the third year based on a performance evaluation.

In addition, the university will provide housing in Pollock House on Wick Avenue, adjacent to campus, and moving costs, according to the contract. It also will pay for an American-made vehicle from a local dealership for the president to use to carry out his duties, the contract states.

If the president terminates the contract within one year, he must pay Youngstown State $200,000; within two years, $175,000; within three years, $150,000, according to the contract, which runs through June 30, 2017.

Mr. Tressel's compensation package was approved unanimously by the board of trustees, as was the board's decision Friday to offer him the job.

He will replace Randy J. Dunn, who resigned in March after eight months to assume the presidency of Southern Illinois University. Mr. Tressel will be Youngstown State's ninth president and will oversee a campus of 13,500 students that is one of Ohio's 13 public universities.

Mr. Tressel joins the university after two years as executive vice president for student success at the University of Akron, where he ran a new division dedicated to the academic and career success of students, according to university officials. He also was responsible for recruitment and admissions, financial aid and career services, advising, the military services center, multicultural academic programs, and a program called The Akron Experience that helped students learn career skills from businesses, civic groups and other local organizations.

Before joining the University of Akron in 2012, Mr. Tressel served as head coach at Ohio State from 2001 to 2010, where he coached teams that won the national championship in 2002 and seven Big Ten championships.

He was paid more than $3.5 million in 2010, according to The Associated Press. But he was forced to resign for failing to tell his superiors that he had learned that players were trading memorabilia for cash and tattoos, the AP has reported.

Previously, he coached at Youngstown State for 14 years beginning in 1986, winning four Division I-AA national championships.

He also served as Youngstown State's executive director of athletics from 1994 to 2000.

He is a 1975 graduate of Baldwin Wallace College with a bachelor's degree in education and received a master's degree in education from the University of Akron in 1977.

Cara Ricottilli, 25, a master of business administration candidate at Youngstown State, said Mr. Tressel's appointment was welcome news.

"He seems very qualified, like he has great experience he could apply to the university," she said.

Youngstown native Steve Susany, 24, said Mr. Tressel's reputation would help the university raise money, which would improve the quality of Youngstown State's educational programs.

Several alumni attending a reception after Mr. Tressel's appointment said they were delighted with the choice and that the new president's skill in working with others would serve him and the university well.

"Once he spoke, you could see his charisma show up, you could see his ability to connect with people," said Lew Devlin, 76, who graduated from Youngstown State with a bachelor's degree in business administration in 1965. "Outstanding gentleman."


Bill Schackner contributed. Amy McConnell Schaarsmith: aschaarsmith@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1719.

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