BCS Talk: Ohio State's Gee Needs a Reality Check
Ohio State University’s quite arrogant president, Elwood Gordon Gee, insulted numerous other institutions of higher learning 11 days ago with some of the most foolish remarks ever heard from the chief executive of a football factory.
His ugly and condescending attitude toward Boise State University and Texas Christian University actually did no harm to these fine schools but did serve to besmirch the Buckeyes’ already questionable reputation, which has taken a number of bad whacks in recent years.
Gee’s unfortunate words also added to the belief that often corrupt big-time college football is an elitist club of 66 teams that scorns those schools that would try to prove themselves to be as good on a gridiron as the 65 members of the six most powerful intercollegiate conferences plus Notre Dame.
During an interview with the Associated Press Nov. 24, the Ohio State chief executive said, “I do know, having been both a Southeastern Conference president and a Big Ten president, that it’s like Murderers’ Row every week for these schools. We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor. We play very fine schools on any given day.
“So I think until a university runs through the gauntlet that there’s some reason to believe that they may not be the best teams to be in the big ballgame.”
He was referring to the Bowl Championship Series National Championship game that will be played Jan. 10 in Glendale, Ariz.
Gee uttered his ill-advised statement while both TCU and Boise State were still undefeated and stood third and fourth, respectively, in the weekly BCS rankings behind two other unbeatens, Oregon and Auburn. Boise State was upset two days later by a superb University of Nevada team in overtime, 34-31, at Reno.
But that does not excuse the thoughtless and poor choice of words employed by Gee, a lawyer who serves as a university president just about anywhere he can land the job.
This native of Utah, who earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Utah and law degree at Columbia University, has served as president of West Virginia University, 1981–1985; University of Colorado, 1985–1990; Ohio State for the first time, 1990–1997; Brown University, 1998–2000; Vanderbilt University, 2001–2007, and back for his second presidency at Ohio State since October 2007. Sort of a gypsy president, you might say.
Boise State’s president, Bob Kustra, responded to Gee’s remarks by saying, “I don’t mind somebody stating that they don’t think we ought to be in the national championship, but to do it with such erroneous information as Gordon Gee has used gets under the skin of all of us who thought university presidents were supposed to be standing for fairness, equity and truth in how we portray our universities. He’s doing a very poor job of that.”
If Gee claims Boise State and TCU, members of the Western Athletic and Mountain West Conferences, respectively, are too insignificant to be worthy of being proper opponents for Ohio State and other teams from the six power conferences, one wonders just what Gee thinks of his neighbors in the Mid American Conference and Conference-USA.
The mighty Ohio State played three teams from these “lesser” conferences during its first four games this season, beating Marshall of Conference-USA, 45-7, and then two Mid-American Conference teams — Ohio University, 43-7, and Eastern Michigan, 73-20.
Thus, according to the world of Gee, the Buckeyes got off to a flying start by beating up on three “Little Sisters of the Poor” and, as he said, running the gauntlet of Murderers’ Row. One could hardly accuse any one of those three teams of being capable of homicide.
It would be interesting to see the Buckeyes open against a threesome such as Boise State, TCU and Nevada at Reno for a couple of years and see if Ohio State can beat them so easily.
President Kustra of Boise State said, “If you’re Boise State or TCU, they (Ohio State, etc.) are going to want to steer clear of you.”
The Mid-American, Conference-USA, Western Athletic, Mountain West and Sun Belt leagues consist of 52 schools making up the five “lesser” conferences in the 11-conference major or Division I Football Bowl Subdivision that used be Division I-A.
If Gee’s words are an expression of the real attitude of the big boys from those football factories — and there is no reason to believe otherwise — then you know why those 52 schools don’t stand a chance at the National Championship game, which is controlled by the cartel of the six big conferences plus Notre Dame. These leagues are the Big Ten, the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big East, the Southeastern Conference, the Big 12 and the Pac 10.
None of the 52 “Little Sisters of the Poor” schools have been allowed by their more powerful brethren of the big boy cartel to make it into the BCS National Championship game even though some of them have gone undefeated since the BCS was established in 1998. There are a total of 120 Division I FBS teams, including Army and Navy, two independent institutions that generally steer clear of these controversies.
Those 52 lesser lights in major college football have little chance even making it to the four other post-season games that are called BCS Bowls. These games are meaningless but are the “biggest” games among the 34 bowls other than the BCS National Championship game.
Of the 80 teams that played in the 40 BCS bowl games to date other than the 12 BCS National Championship games, there have been only four teams from those lesser conferences. TCU will be the fifth such team when it plays Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl Jan. 1, 2011. That will make a grand total of five such teams out of 84 in BCS bowls or 5.9 percent, while the 52 “Little Sisters of the Poor” make up 43 percent of all major college football teams.
What is needed is a major college football playoff to stop this nonsense and arrive at a true National Champion each season.
But now that TCU has decided to join the Big East Conference in 2012, maybe Gee will treat the Horned Frogs as if they are fellow human beings from the same exalted land that is his exclusive and greedy world.
Also, Gee should not be so quick to call someone else “The Little Sisters of the Poor.” The Buckeyes reached the BCS National Championship game three times in the last eight years, winning the January 2003, title game by beating Miami, 31-24. But in its last two BCS title appearances, the Buckeyes lost to Florida in January 2007, 41-14, and to LSU in January 2008, 38-24. Hardly a very impressive showing in recent years.
Another point conveniently overlooked by President Gee is that Ohio State has little to be proud of in recent years when it comes to complying with NCAA rules. Placed on lengthy probations in both football and basketball for quite serious infractions of the rules during the last half-dozen years, the Buckeyes should be looking to learn from such schools as Boise State, which has had no such run-in with the law.
After eight days of listening to and reading reactions to his own disparaging remarks, Gee finally got the message and two days ago he did a mea culpa by saying, “I need to keep my mouth closed … What I should do is go over to the surgical suites and get my foot extracted from my mouth.”
University presidents are, by definition, very intelligent people, as are some lawyers. But intelligence is no proof of common sense.
Gordon White served 43 years as a sports reporter for The New York Times. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
More like this story