Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee announced on Tuesday afternoon that he plans to retire from his post, a move that will go into effect on July 1.
A two-term president of the university, Gee served in his soon-to-be-vacated position from 1990 to 1997 and again from 2007 until now.
Encarnacion Pyle and Bill Bush of The Columbus Dispatch reported the news.
Gee plans to announce the news to students, faculty and staff later on in the afternoon. Here's a partial quote from the Dispatch from Gee about his decision to step away from academia:
I recently returned from a vacation with my family, during which time I had a chance to consider the university’s phenomenal achievements and the road that lies ahead for it. ... During my days away, I also spent some time in self-reflection. And after much deliberation, I have decided it is now time for me to turn over the reins of leadership to allow the seeds that we have planted to grow. It is also time for me to reenergize and refocus myself.
Board chairman Robert H. Schottenstein also released a statement (h/t Dispatch):
By any measure, Gordon has been a transformational leader for Ohio State. His service to Ohio State has been superb. This man has been an inspiration to many people, including me, and we all are forever grateful for his friendship. ... As we go forward, the University Board will work in close partnership with Dr. Gee and (interim president Joseph A. Alutto) through this period to continue the tremendous success and growth we have seen under his leadership.
Gee's retirement announcement comes on the heels of a scandal, per ESPN.com, regarding comments he made about the University of Notre Dame and the Southeastern Conference at the school's Athletic Council last December.
The backlash following his comments was swift and took no prisoners. Those calling for punishment and/or his dismissal have been out in full force, and the move for Gee to cease ties with OSU came into effect just days after the shocking discovery of his ill-timed humor.
Louisville Cardinals men's head basketball coach Rick Pitino had no shortage of words about Gee in a recent interview (via USA Today; language below NSFW).
As Bonnie Bernstein put it, there's a clear cloud of doubt around the true intentions behind a move to retire from the school:
ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas would agree with Bernstein's quotation marks around the word "retire":
Collin Binkley of the Dispatch previously revealed on Monday that Ohio State's Board of Trustees has been less than thrilled with Gee's behavior in recent months, going so far as to put him on a "remediation plan" and threatening to remove him if another gaffe—in the mold of his recent comments—took place.
Binkley's Monday report makes Gee's decision to retire less surprising, especially considering he was likely on thin ice with more than one university figure. Another decision was made Monday to withdraw from a future commencement ceremony at a Catholic high school in Ohio.
Per Pyle's report, OSU’s former Provost, Joseph A. Alutto, has agreed to become a temporary replacement to the position until the school can officially conduct a search for a new president.
Gee has been a source of controversy for Ohio State for quite some time.
Despite earning top praise from Time magazine on its list of the best college presidents in 2009, Gee has been a lightning rod for stories about other topics than academic prowess and success.
In addition to his comments about Notre Dame, the SEC and the pitfalls of what the Irish in the Big Ten would mean for the conference, Gee has been on the wrong side of the microphone about his state's governor and comparing the coordination of Ohio State's division to the Polish Army (via ESPN).
He also took to defense of his football team's non-conference schedule in 2010, taking issue with the resumes that non-BCS schools (at the time) TCU and Boise State had going into bowl season (via this ESPN report). Gee noted that Ohio State's schedule was challenging and used the now-infamous phrase, "We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor."
There's been no shortage of jokes about Gee's quick-to-offend humor over the years, and Tuesday's announcement drew the attention of this satirical post from ESPN's Rick Reilly about that specific subject:
Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch also weighed in, with a slight cut at another school in the middle of a scandal with respect to different high-profile positions:
Ohio State's monetary pledge to his services has also drawn fire in past years, including two 2012 reports from Laura A. Bischoff of the Dayton Daily News that Gee's travel expenses from 2007 totaled more than $800,000 and the shocking discovery that Ohio State has spent more on his bow ties and related items—$64,000 at the time—than a standard teacher salary in the United States.
Gee has also slammed the media over the course of his tenure, calling Sports Illustrated and Sporting News examples of "bad journalism" in an interview with Pat Brennan of The Lantern.
Always apologetic following his off-the-wall statements, Gee's favor with university officials steadily ran out over the course of his tenure with the Buckeyes. His latest gaffe proved to be his undoing and will likely be the long-lasting memory associated with his time at Ohio State.
Gee was the 11th and 14th President at Ohio State University. The 69-year-old Gee has also been president at Brown University, the University of Colorado, West Virginia University and Vanderbilt University during his career as an educator.
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