Ohio State University president E. Gordon Gee has reportedly charged millions of dollars in expenses on lavish parties and trips during his tenure.
According to Laura A. Bischoff of the Dayton Daily News, Gee has racked up $7.7 million in expenses—in addition to his $8.6 million in salary—since becoming president in 2007 in order “to travel the globe, throw parties, wine and dine donors, woo prospective faculty, hang out with students and staff and maintain a 9,600-square-foot mansion on 1.3 acres.”
And apparently, the university believes that this is not only permissible, but advisable. In a statement regarding its president’s spending, Ohio State said, "A significant proportion of President Gee’s time, travel and use of the university residence is devoted to resource-generation to support the work of our students and faculty,” via Bischoff’s report.
This rationale for the exorbitant spending is unacceptable from an institution that forced Jim Tressel to resign his post as head football coach and allowed five athletes to be suspended by the NCAA for trading memorabilia for tattoos.
According to Forbes.com’s Chris Smith, Ohio State football generated $26 million in profit for the university in 2011 and was the 14th-most valuable program in the nation.
Meanwhile, Bischoff notes that Gee has not been doing an adequate job of raising endowment money, which is one of his primary responsibilities. The report states that the market value of Ohio State’s endowment increased by 13.4 percent in the previous year, whereas the national average for this growth rate was 17.9 percent.
Judging by OSU’s statement, that was the main justification for sending him on first-class flights and covering $895,000 for “gatherings” at the president's mansion over a three-year span.
These statistics suggest that the football program has done a significantly more efficient job of raising money for the university than the president.
Yet when Gee uses his position at the university to stay in five-star hotels, he is given free reign to do so and is openly defended by the rest of the administration when his lavish living is made public.
But when the football players received benefits that were valued at only a fraction of the price of a single night in many of the hotels that Gee stayed in, Gene Smith—the school’s athletic director—scathingly said, “These failures are individual failures: failures of individual athletes, and as you know unfortunately a previous coach, and a booster” (via ESPN).
Should college athletes be paid?
Smith made this comment trying to defend Ohio State on an institutional level in hopes of avoiding the NCAA sanctions that were eventually placed on the program. But the recent developments regarding Gee’s spending cast this scandal in a new light and illuminate the hypocrisy of the business of college of football.
Gee was allowed to charge millions of dollars in unnecessary expenses with little oversight. And the knowledge of his spending is now public only because the Dayton Daily News spent nearly a year obtaining and examining reports that should be more easily available, as Bischoff notes.
But athletes who lay their bodies on the line and generate millions for their university are kept under the hawkish eye of the NCAA to ensure that they do not receive any benefits, even if it is as minor as a tattoo.
This is a system that makes no sense. The road forward for the NCAA will continue to be rough, as the players whose skills and dedication are responsible for massive amounts of revenue for the institutions they represent are not compensated for their services.