Tressel Breaks Promise, Ousts Football PR Person

Friday afternoon Rusty Miller of the ASSOCIATED PRESS reported that highly regarded Ohio State football public relations point person Shelly Poe had been re-assigned within the Ohio State sports information department.

Shelly Poe Ousted By Jim Tressel

Poe is one of the very, very few public relations persons highly respected by both the media and industry peers. (Thanks to a tireless work ethic, she was inducted into the college sports information directors Hall of Fame at a very young age.)

From the Miller AP story:

Ohio State’s top spokeswoman for the football program for the past four years has been reassigned to duties elsewhere within the school’s sports information department.

Shelly Poe, responsible for handling communications and public relations for Buckeyes football, will now oversee women’s soccer and softball, men’s and women’s swimming and all on-campus championships. She was inducted into the college sports information directors Hall of Fame in 2006. Poe was athletic communications director at her alma mater, West Virginia, from 1988 until she was brought to Ohio State in 2007.

Jerry Emig will take over football after managing for four years the same sports Poe will now handle.

If you know the backgrounds of Poe and Emig, the move by Ohio State is nothing short of stunning.

And I do mean stunning.

Over a decade ago, it was Emig who was top dog at the OSU Sports Information Department. But in January, 2000, he resigned after it was discovered he had described comedian and Ohio State alumnus Richard Lewis in the Buckeyes’ basketball media guide thusly:

“Actor, Writer, Comedian, Drunk.”

Meanwhile Poe, thanks to impeccable credentials from her WVU sports public relations work at her alma mater, was lured to Ohio State in 2007 to take over media communications for the football program.

How badly did OSU want Poe to represent their football program to the public? From a story about her move in 2007:

The Ohio State coaching staff, led by Jim Tressel, went to West Virginia and, through its powers of persuasion, was able to get the person it wanted.

No, this isn’t about Josh Jenkins, although the parallels could end up being similar. In this particular incidence, the subject was Shelly Poe, the director of West Virginia University’s sports communications office. Tressel and receivers coach Darrell Hazell were able to convince the lifelong West Virginian that a move to Columbus to serve as the football program’s sports information director was the right one.

A graduate of University High School in Morgantown, Poe said it was hard to leave her comfort zone but looks forward to a new challenge in Columbus.

“It’s really hard,” she said. “I’m from here, I’ve worked here as a student and I never left. I’ve been 19 years in this same job and it’s been wonderful, it’s been great, but this was a really super opportunity and chance to do I guess almost specifically just the stuff I like to do.”

Ohio State’s athletic department likes to pride itself on tradition, excellence and people, and Poe said the latter of those was one of the main reasons she took the prominent job.

“I think I counted it up – I met with 24 different people and they were all just super,” Poe said of her June interview at OSU. “They were really nice and friendly but they have so much pride in Ohio State and they have so much enthusiasm for whatever it takes to get it done. That was very appealing.”

“I thought he was very friendly, easy to deal with,” Poe said of Tressel. “That’s kind of how people are in West Virginia, kind of laid back.”

The CHARLESTON (WV) GAZETTE reported at the time of her departure from Morgantown:

Shelly Poe, West Virginia University’s sports beacon for 19 years, is leaving the Mountaineer athletic department for a similar job with Ohio State.

Poe, 42, has accepted the position of football communications director in Columbus and will begin working with Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel at the end of next week. Her last day with WVU is next Monday.

“I will be the point person for Ohio State football,” Poe said. “It’s a terrific opportunity. Everyone there seems so people- oriented. They want their athletes - as well as their staff - to grow.”

WVU is losing one of the most highly decorated sports information directors in the country. Last summer she was inducted into the College Sports Information Directors of America Hall of Fame. She is also recognized as a trailblazer for women in the profession. At the time she took over for Joe Boczek as SID in 1988, Poe was the only female in the position at a major football school.

Four years later, Poe was replaced today by an OSU staffer who resigned in disgrace 11 years earlier for calling a celebrity Ohio State alum a “drunk” in an official Ohio State sports publication.

Of Poe’s ouster, today I was told by a credentialed media member who has covered the Ohio State football beat for well over a decade that Poe was re-assigned at the urging of Ohio State head football coach Jim Tressel.

I was told by the same source that Tressel indeed had a hand in luring Poe from her alma mater, West Virginia, to Ohio Sate with the promise that she’d be allowed to do her job the same way she did it at West Virginia. With complete autonomy. (Which resulted in her becoming one of the most celebrated individuals in her industry.)

But once Poe got to Columbus, Tressel went back on his promise, constantly contesting player access to the media.

Following the Ohio State spring game on April 23, the same game which ESPN’s Mark Schlabach reported Tressel was nearly banned by OSU officials in deference to future NCAA penalties, Poe made Buckeye quarterback Joe Bauserman available to the media.

After Poe allowed media access to Bauserman, who said little to nothing of substance about the most recent NCAA inquiries and the football program itself, Tressel sought out Poe’s ouster, which was granted today with the announcement that Poe has been re-assigned to women’s soccer, swimming, softball and “director of all on-campus championships.”

It was also Tressel who pushed for Poe’s replacement to be Emig, who I was told today got into a confrontation with a media member at the 2011 Sugar Bowl because the reporter asked Terrelle Pryor, during his only media availability that week, about the then-recently-imposed NCAA sanctions involving tattoos and cash for Ohio State player-only memorabilia.

If you were (somehow still) wondering if the walls were closing in on Tressel, I think you now have your answer.

Follow Brooks on Twitter or join him on Facebook for real-time updates.