The highest profile gaffe — before the comments published in late-May — but certainly not the most offensive was during a 2011 press conference addressing the NCAA investigation of then-OSU football coach Jim Tressel. Tressel lied to NCAA investigators about a player accepting tattoos for giving away memorabilia and when Gee was asked about firing Tressel, he said, “I’m just hopeful the coach doesn’t dismiss me.”
The university put Gee on a remediation plan after his most recent comments were made public, but last week Gee announced his retirement, assumed to be the alternative to being dismissed.
The Ohio State University Board of Trustees put up with Gee for so long because of one reason: Fundraising. Gee’s tenure, which started in 2007, marks the second of two terms he served at Ohio State. In an email sent to university alumni notifying all of Gee’s retirement it read, “his leadership has contributed significantly to the strengthening of the university’s long-term financial condition, highlighted by his recent efforts to help raise more than $1.6 billion in private support.”
The email said nothing of his insensitive comments.
Gee made his rounds of apologies, apologizing to the Catholic church, to Notre Dame, to the SEC, to the University of Louisville and even to the Big Ten. But he missed a few people.
No, he didn’t need to apologize to U of L basketball coach Rick Pitino, as one sports columnist suggested. Pitino appeared on Terry Meiners’ WHAS radio show after Gee’s comments were made public and fired his own salvo.
“What really gets me boiling ... it’s not Louisville or Kentucky. What gets me boiling is the fact he knocks the Catholics at Notre Dame,” Pitino said. “I don’t know what denomination he is or what lord he prays to, but trying to get jokes out of that, it really, really boils me. ... It’s a pompous attitude and certainly I have a major problem with him, not with Ohio State, and he’s a pompous ass for making those statements.”