Why Didn't Ohio State Completely Cut Ties with Former President Gordon Gee?

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Why Didn't Ohio State Completely Cut Ties with Former President Gordon Gee?
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Former Ohio State president Gordon Gee's retirement package was just announced, and it includes a five-year, $5.8 million payday, according to the Associated Press. Ohio State may have been embarrassed by Gee, but not enough to cut all ties. 

Gee was retained as a "full professor in the university's College of Law" and will receive a $410,000 yearly salary after an initial $1.5 million one-time payment, according to the report.

Gee resigned on July 1 after making some derogatory remarks toward Roman Catholics and Southerners. If his remarks were, at best, a poor attempt at sophomoric humor, why is Ohio State keeping Gee around? 

It's all about the Benjamins.

According to the Dayton Daily News, Gee was responsible for raising "$1 billion in new resources by privatizing the parking facilities, partnering with Huntington Bank and issuing a 100-year bond." More: 

Board of Trustees Chairman Robert Schottenstein said Gee has been able to attract top talent to Ohio State. “Our football team is 10-0. We want to be 10-0 in everything and you’re making it happen, Gordon,” he told the president.

Gee has made Ohio State a cash cow and a coveted destination for premier student-athletes. Those are two sound reasons for keeping him around. But there are also some negatives. The report states that "Ohio State spent $7.7 million on Gee’s travel, housing and entertainment since he returned to Columbus."

The itemization of his expenses by the Dayton Daily News boggles the mind.

The university spent at least $895,000 for gatherings at the president’s mansion, $574,000 on private jet travel for Gee and $64,000 on his trademark bow ties, bow tie cookies, O-H lapel pins and bow tie pins for university marketing, according to OSU records.

The report also notes that the "real median Ohio household income tapered off by 7.9 percent to $45,749, and in-state tuition and fees at OSU increased 20.4 percent." Resentment toward the public university by residents must be growing. Even more so for those of the Catholic faith.

In a meeting of the school's athletic council in December, Gee told the attendees "the fathers are holy on Sunday, and they're holy hell on the rest of the week," according to a recording obtained by the Associated Press. "You just can't trust those damn Catholics on a Thursday or a Friday, and so, literally, I can say that."

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Urban Meyer

What makes these remarks so ironic is that Gee is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormons have been the subject of many jokes and ridicule due to the church's condoning of plural marriage prior to 1890. Since then, the church has prohibited polygamy, but fundamentalist Mormons still practice it.

Gee must have heard some polygamy jokes in his early childhood. Kids can be mean. But an adult at a university knows better, especially one who represents such a high-profile school and whose head football coach, Urban Meyer, is a practicing Catholic. Meyer's mother named him after a pope, according to multiple reports

Gee also made fun of Southerners at the same meeting. He said the league's top goal should be attracting "institutions of like-minded academic integrity."

"So you won't see us adding Louisville," Gee added. He also said that the Big Ten wouldn't be adding Kentucky. 

Gee then addressed how Big Ten fans should respond to criticism from SEC fans who say the league can't count since it has 14 member schools. 

"You tell the SEC when they can learn to read and write, then they can figure out what we're doing," he replied. 

Gee apologized for his "misguided attempt at humor," according to ESPN. 

To be fair to Gee, his derogatory remarks toward Catholics and Southerners were made at a school function, not to the general public. He claims they were made in jest. There's no reason not to believe a man who wears bow ties is a wannabe comedian.

Gee's antics were enough to secure an early retirement, but not enough for dismissal. And certainly not enough to cut the umbilical cord. 

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Despite his lack of refinement, polish and sophistication, Gee is coveted by Ohio State. He'll probably continue his shtick at booster functions and then excuse it due to his advancing age. Since he is no longer a school president, it does not matter anymore.

Send in the clowns. Watch the coffers overflow. No more apologies necessary. It's a win-win-win for Ohio State.

The almighty dollar is more important than a retired school president lacking couth. So is winning football games. If Gee continues to get wealthy Buckeye donors to open their wallets, Ohio State probably got a bargain with Gee. 

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