Univ. of Akron, Ohio State, Yale & Harvard: Bored of Education? Never!


Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard v. Yale 11/17/12

‘I’m excited about being a Zip.’

          So said disgraced former Ohio State football coach, Jim Tressel when, last February, he became an administrator at the University of Akron.  He’d begun his coaching career there in 1975. 

          The tone of the article was snotty.  So was the blog post I instantly planned:  from Zip to Zip in one lifetime.

Tressel Time

          Only devoted football fans know Akron University’s nickname is ‘the Zips’ which steals the head-scratch prize from OSU’s ‘the Buckeyes’.  Says the Univ. of Akron website:

In 1927, a campus-wide contest was conducted to choose a nickname for the University’s athletic teams. Student Margaret Hamlin suggested “Zippers,” which was also the name of a popular rubber overshoe sold by Akron’s B.F. Goodrich Co.

           To check the Tressel quotation, I watched the press conference it came from.  My planned jeer became a cheer.  A very respectful one. 

 THE (Eastern) Game

           Ohio State and Harvard: Two tarnished tarts of the turf triumphed thrillingly Saturday.  At their respective levels, the second halves of their games were as good as college football gets. 

           Of Ohio State, still more later.

           Poor Harvard.  Apart from beating Yale for the 11th time in 12 years, it was another bad publicity week.  Even when Alex Beam’s WGU (World’s Greatest University) does the right thing, it gets a Boston Globe front page lede: ‘Broadwell fell short of aims at Harvard: Draws scrutiny at second college’.

           The same day’s Globe sports page headlined a pre-Game hype story: ‘Beleaguered Yale on salvage mission’.  Of Beam’s alma mater ‘annus horribilis’ since its last loss to Harvard, John Powers wrote:

…[C]oach Tom Williams resigned under pressure after falsely claiming that he’d been a Rhodes Scholar candidate. Will McHale had his captaincy revoked after a May altercation with a fellow student in a campus bar….  Tyler Varga, a Canadian transfer who’d essentially become a one-man offense, had to sit out the Dartmouth game while his eligibility was being confirmed….

           The Harvard Lampoon’s game day program satire (not online) highlighted the large number of athletes allegedly involved in the WGU Govt. 1310 ‘cheating’[1] scandal (p. 19).  Its cover and ‘letter’ from WGU president Drew Faust (p. 4) spoofed the just announced Soldiers Field renovation – luxury boxes and arena seating, etc. – which with a new basketball arena will enliven Harvard’s new Alston science campus.

 Meyer’s Millions

           The differences between the Big Ten’s win-at-any-cost programs and luxury-boxed coliseums and the Elite Eight’s have not seemed slighter since Ohio State and Princeton had a home-and-home series in the early days of raccoon coats and hip flasks.

           Jim Tressel’s downfall had come to mind when I wrote about Liberty University’s aspirations to become a Bowl Championship program.  Liberty’s president, Jerry Falwell, Jr., believes it can avoid the scandal surrounding Ohio State’s team.

           That led me to wonder what Ohio State contracted to pay Tressel’s successor, Urban Meyer.  I found an excellent report in the June 21 edition of Columbus Business First by Jeff Bell, ‘Perks, bonuses pad Urban Meyer’s pay at Ohio State’.  (Be sure to look at the photo spread accompanying the article.)

$ 700,000 base salary (all per annum)
 1,850,000 media and public relations duties
 1,400,000 equipment/shoe contract
       14,400 stipend for two vehicles

          Meyer’s incentives and perks tell the student-athlete story most eloquently:

$    50,000 for team 3.0 GPA; $100,000 for 3.3; $150,000 for 3.5
      50,000 for winning Big Ten Leaders division
    100,000 for winning Big Ten championship game + one-year contract ext.
    150,000 for making non-national championship BCS game
    250,000 for making national championship game
    450,000 for remaining coach at 1/31/2014; $750,000 at 1/31/2016; $1.2 million at 1/31/2018

          So, graduating a 3.5 GPA team is worth 10.7% of what Meyer gets for endorsements.  Every TV shot of his student-athletes shows shoe and jersey logos for which the boys get zip.  They should be ‘the scarlet & Nike’.

          And, that’s not all, folks.  Says Business First, Meyer will also get:

• A full golf membership at the course of his choice in the Columbus area.

• Private aircraft for recruiting visits & other university business + up to 35 hours a year for personal use

• A dozen lower-bowl Ohio Stadium tickets per game + free use of a stadium suite by his wife, family and their guests.

• Two tickets to each Ohio State home basketball game.

          Money and perks well spent?  Maybe.  The stands are alive with scarlet logoed apparel, with 100,000 volunteer sandwich boards.

          The often-restive Ohio State football constituencies have had little to complain about to date, given Meyer’s 11-0 record, albeit the eleven include three opponents in OSU President Gordon Gee’s ‘Little Sisters of the Poor’ category.


           Meyer’s millions made me want to compare his compensation, etc., with Gee’s. 

           Before proceeding, I’d best acknowledge that my regard for Mr. Gee has long been limited – as I’ve written here and here and elsewhere.

           Nothing I read in preparing this post caused me to ratchet up my opinions of him.  The most recent – save one – Gee controversy, his ex-wife’s 351-page-selfpublished memoir of their years at OSU, Brown and Vanderbilt (Higher Education: Marijuana in the Mansion (Oct. 2012)) I did not inhale and won’t exhale.

 Gee’s Gelt

           It turns out, the Dayton Daily News had had similar questions to mine about Gee’s take.  Laura A. Bischoff reported the paper’s findings on Sept. 22 in ‘OSU president expenses in the millions’ and a follow up on Nov. 9, ‘Gee’s raise, bonus bring pay to $2.14M’.

           The Meyer-Gee numbers aren’t apples to apples, but they’re close enough to get the idea.[2]  Here are Gee’s 2013 numbers:

$859,566 base pay
225,000 deferred compensation
 333,812 bonus
 641,301 supplemental retirement
   85,467 other retirement benefits

In summary:

 Ohio State University trustees … rewarded President E. Gordon Gee’s efforts … by giving him a 3 percent salary increase and $333,812 annual bonus, boosting his total compensation to $2.14 million.

The bonus is 40 percent of Gee’s base pay while the 3 percent salary hike is in line with what was awarded to faculty and staff this year

Not many government employees in Ohio or elsewhere got 40 percent bonuses this year.  Pres. Obama, who had a pretty fair year, got no bonus on top of his $400,000 salary.  In 2011, Gee was the nation’s highest paid university president.

Gee’s Perks

          As with Coach Meyer, it’s President Gee’s perks that tell the higher ed story.  Here are some highlights:

The Daily News investigation found the university spent more than $895,000 for gatherings at … the president’s mansion, between April 2008 and June 2011. That works out to be about $23,000 a month — a little less than the average cost of a wedding.

The university spends tens of thousands of dollars alone branding Gee around his signature bow ties. Since 2007, Ohio State has spent more than $64,000 on bow ties, bow tie cookies and O-H and bow tie pins for Gee and others to distribute….


Ohio State provides him with … up to 100 hours a year of flight time on private jets and authorization to fly first class or business class when on commercial flights.

The university picks up the tab for thousands of dollars for flowers Gee sends to politicians and staff members … and concert, basketball and football tickets that he can use as he sees fit.

His contract and university policy provide him with up to $20,000 a year in financial planning and tax preparation, a car for business and personal use, [and] a fully staffed residence….


Last month, the Ohio Ethics Commission allowed Gee to file addenda to his 2007-2011 annual financial disclosure statements after it was discovered that he inadvertently failed to report more than $150,000 in travel expenses, including a second international trip paid for by King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia, where Gee serves on an international board of advisers for the university.

The 2011 trip cost $19,501, according to Gee’s supplemental report.

          Ohio’s median household income over 2007-11 dropped 7.9 percent to $45,749.  In-state tuition and fees rose 20.4 percent, found the Dayton Daily News.

          The Sept. 22 Daily News article compared Gee’s compensation and perks to those of the presidents of the University of Texas – Austin and archrival University of Michigan.   It also compared OSU’s endowment growth and investment rate of return.  On Nov. 9, the Daily News reported:

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.

 Suffice it to say, Gee’s performance has not matched Meyer’s and Tressel’s on the field.  But in compensation and perquisites, he’s number one.

 ‘As Tears Go By’

           A May 2012 New York Times report, ‘Slowly, as Student Debt Rises, Colleges Confront Costs’, used Gee as its hook.  It ends:

At a ceremony to honor a $100 million donation from Leslie Wexner, the clothing magnate and Ohio State graduate, Mr. Gee choked back tears.

“Every time I get a lot of money I cry,” Mr. Gee told the crowd. “And I got a lot of tears left.”

As do I.










          1.  I put ‘cheating’ in quotation marks because there seems to me to be a real question as to the characterisation of the behavior.  It may well be the result of a predictable flaw in the system of online test taking.


          2.  It is curious that Meyer’s compensation, as reported, doesn’t included either retirement or deferred compensation.