Jim Tressel resigned today.
(Photo of OSU Board of Trustees Chairman Les Wexner and Jim Tressel)
In a statement this morning, Ohio State President Gordon Gee said:
“In consultation with the senior leadership of the Board of Trustees, I have been actively reviewing matters attendant to our football program, and I have accepted Coach Tressel’s resignation. The University’s enduring public purposes and its tradition of excellence continue to guide our actions.”
Notice how “enduring public purposes” trumps “tradition of excellence” in the Ohio State President’s statement?
The former is code for the current $2.5 billion fundraising campaign underway by the university. That campaign, called “advancement” in the latest Ohio State Board of Trustees meeting, held a prominent spot on the group’s two-day itinerary last month.
The OSU BOT is chaired by billionaire businessman Leslie Wexner. The 74-year-old Wexner founded retail apparel giant The Limited and recently donated $100 million to Ohio State - upping his personal giving to his alma mater to $200 million over the past five decades.
Wexner also happens to be friends with Tressel, with the Ohio State football practice facility bearing his name.
How highly does Wexner think of Tressel? When the NetJets corporation threatened to leave Columbus three years ago, Wexner invited Tressel to his Columbus home to make a personal plea to the company’s CEO to stay in Central Ohio.
And it worked.
Tressel might be still employed today (at least at the moment) if Ohio State wasn’t right in the middle of what is scheduled to be, beginning in 2012, a very public plea by Wexner and the school for donations to help OSU reach its fundraising goal of $2.5 billion. But Wexner & Co. couldn’t afford - literally - to allow Tressel to tarnish the university’s reputation any further with his formal association to the school.
Depending on the level of NCAA penalties meted out later this summer on the OSU football program, Tressel might’ve been fired by Ohio State anyway.
But the school already had 2.5 billion reasons for him to move on - which he did today.