Tressel will resign as president of Youngstown State after 9 years

The former national title-winning football coach acknowledges 'extremely challenging times in higher education.'

Jim Tressel, the former national championship-winning coach at The Ohio State University, will step down as president of Youngstown State University in February 2023 but wants to remain “in whatever fashion the Broad of Trustees sees fit.”

Tressel, who was unanimously hired in 2014 by the Board to take the role, said he will be working “seven days a week for seven months” until he exits as Youngstown State searches for a successor. He acknowledged the daunting road that universities like YSU and other face to recruit and retain students.

“These are extremely challenging times in higher education and in our world as a whole; however, the opportunities are many, and together we will continue to make great things happen,” Tressel said in a statement to the Board of Trustees. “It has been truly a blessing and labor of love to serve Youngstown State University. I cannot thank my family enough for allowing my schedule, and the needs of our university, to take priority and center stage. It is now only fair to have Ellen [and family] set the schedule.”

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While Tressel has overseen a rise in graduation rates, fundraising and capital improvements, Youngstown State officials last year reported their lowest-ever enrollment–just over 11,000 students–during the fall of 2021, along with declining revenues caused by a steep drop in tuition losses. Both the COVID-19 pandemic and now inflation have been big factors driving setbacks for institutions since 2020, as 1.4 million students have opted to forgo or leave postsecondary education because of job opportunities of lack of affordability.

Those pressures, budget shortfalls and retirements have led to a massive list of resignations by higher education leaders–from Harvard to small state colleges. The 69-year-old Tressel had been on a series of one-year deals since 2018, but his latest contract offered less protection as either he or the university could opt to walk away from the deal after six months. Still, Board of Trustees Chair John Jakubek called “the Tressels’ contributions of time and treasure are immeasurable and will be felt across the region for years and years to come. We wish them well.”

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine also lauded Tressel for his work. “Jim Tressel is often referred to as a champion, and he has embodied that term in his leadership as President of Youngstown State University. Not only has he championed the cause of YSU, but he has been a champion for the Mahoning Valley, a champion for investing in Ohio’s workforce and furthering economic development through university partnerships, and a champion for higher education across Ohio.”

Prior to his shift to administration, which included becoming the vice president for student success at the University of Akron, Tressel was one of the best football coaches in the country. He won four national titles at Youngstown State on the Football Championship Subdivision level before moving to Ohio State and winning the 2002 national title and seven Big Ten crowns. However, he resigned amid scandal in 2011 after lying about having prior knowledge of his players violating NCAA rules by exchanging rings and other memorabilia for tattoos. He spent a year with the Indianapolis Colts before resurfacing at Akron. He was also a candidate for Akron’s presidential position before Youngstown’s Board voted to make him its president.

Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

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