It was one thing for E. Gordon Gee, the now ex-president of the Ohio State University to make dumb remarks insulting the Southeastern Conference (dumb, but not a firing offense), Arkansas coach Brett Bilema (dumber, but still not a firing offense) a couple of potshots at other colleges. This wasn’t the first time Gee’s mouth had outrun his brain, but this time it turned out to be the last.
What were the magic words that led to a warning from OSU trustees and finally Gee’s sudden itch to go fishing?
“The fathers are holy on Sunday, and they’re holy hell on the rest of the week,” Gee said at a Dec. 5 meeting attended by Athletic Director Gene Smith along with other staff, faculty and students. “You just can’t trust those damn Catholics on a Thursday or a Friday, and so, literally, I can say that.”
Oh, Elwood, you’ve done it again! Now you’re slamming an entire religion? Now that’s a firing offense!
When you’re saying things that are true, others are free to object, but they can’t correct because it is true. But who you are saying these horrible but true, things makes a big difference. It’s one thing for a football coach to take swipes at a rival and quite another when you’re the president of a prominent university.
Gee’s run as the head honcho at OSU was long and distinguished. He’s an accomplished educator who has brought considerable riches and clout to the school and I’ve been to the dude’s house. Gee is a charming guy. He’s also an old man and like many old men with a habit of saying what he thinks he lets fly at targets that tick him off. Gee is almost 70 years old. He’s earned the right to speak his mind.
But along with the right comes the consequences of doing so. No one knows with completely certainty that Gee, who is a Mormon, has a real religious-based bias against Catholics, but it doesn’t matter. When Gee speaks he’s speaking as the head man of Ohio State and is held to a higher standard than any coach, professor or employee.
There are still certain things you can’t say. You can’t rant against Blacks and Latinos without being called a racist. You can’t rip women without being branded a sexist pig. Go ahead and blast lesbians or gays as offensive to God and find out how many you’ve offended by doing so. Gee’s distaste for Catholics would have gotten him removed immediately if he derided Jews in the same way. He tried to apologize, but it was far too late to backtrack. The odor of bigotry hung over Gee’s head and for that he jumped before he was pushed.
Across the country the Ohio State haters will be short-stroking this story. Oh, look. Ohio State is in the news again yet again for all the wrong reasons What the hell is going on there?
Those that already despised Gee and OSU only have another reason to. Goody for them and let them enjoy their laughs. It doesn’t matter. The haters are just as far off the mark as the ones who bleed scarlet and grey who are upset Gee is gonzo.
Whether Gee retired of his own volition or it was strongly suggested he should doesn’t matter either. Sooner or later he was going to leave anyway. When I met him at a gathering at his home he was frail and a bit shaky and I doubt I was the only one that noticed. Maybe he was already starting to lose it a bit. He certainly lost it enough to be eased into retirement.
You can only keep cutting your throat so long and so deep until you finally run out of blood. Or chances to cut your throat. Enjoy your retirement, E. Gordon. I’m sure it came a bit earlier than expected.
- Gordon Gee to Retire From Ohio State Presidency (insidehighered.com)
- Controversial Ohio State president Gordon Gee to retire July 1 (gantdaily.com)
- OSU prez quitting after belittling jokes (wcpo.com)