By Justin Wier
Jim Tressel will remain president of Youngstown State University through June 2018 and possibly longer.
The YSU Board of Trustees extended Tressel’s contract during their meeting on Thursday. The one-year agreement includes three separate options for one-year extensions. Tressel’s pay will remain at $300,000.
Carole Weimer, chairperson of the board, attributed the decision to Tressel’s recruitment and fundraising efforts, which have helped turn around the university’s budget deficit.
“He’s performed unbelievably in very challenging times in higher education and specifically at Youngstown State University,” she said.
Tressel said he’s excited about the opportunity and praised the board for being patient with him as a first-time president. He said he required some time to learn after coming in during a time of turmoil. The university had three presidents and an interim president in the five years prior to Tressel’s arrival. Despite that, he said there is still room for improvement.
“I’m excited about the challenge,” Tressel said. “It’s a tough challenge, but there’s nothing more fun than challenges.”
The decision follows a campus-climate survey which suggested faculty and staff are upset with senior leadership. Weimer said that was taken into account during the board’s deliberations, and she thinks keeping Tressel around may actually improve things by keeping the momentum moving forward.
“Having continuity is always favorable,” Weimer said. “Anytime you have a transition in senior leadership it does create some instability.”
The decision to forgo a pay raise was Tressel’s idea, which Weimer called magnanimous. His first contract initially guaranteed him $375,000 per year, which he voluntarily reduced by $75,000.
“We tried very hard to give him a little boost,” Weimer said. “But the president wanted to maintain his pay again.”
Tressel has repeatedly claimed he has no intention of returning to coaching, most recently in a New York Times profile. The new contract would seem to put that to rest, but the one-year term — which Weimer said was mutually agreed upon —may give the appearance of leaving the door open.
Tressel said it was important for the first contract to extend over several years, but at this point in his life one-year extensions make more sense. It gives both him and the university the ability to opt out, even though he said both parties intend to continue the relationship.
In regards to rumors that he wants to return to coaching or pursue political office, Tressel related what he called the best advice he’s ever gotten from anyone outside his mom and dad.
“You need to keep your mind and your rear end in the same place,” he said. “My mind and my rear end are right here, and I haven’t been thinking of anything outside of that and don’t intend to.”