The whole sports world has heard about Ohio St. president Gordon Gee's comments made last December during a meeting of the Ohio St. Athletic Council, and there was enough in there to offend every major conference other than the Pac-10. Among his remarks were:
Slaps at Louisville, Kentucky, and the SEC in general;
An offensive remark aimed at Catholics in general and Catholic priests in particular;
Calling B1G member Wisconsin's former coach Bret Bielema a "thug."
Predictably, all the offended parties have responded with indignance and outrage, and justifiably so. Rick Pitino went so far as to go on Terry Meiner's show on WHAS radio here in Louisville and take umbrage with Gee's remarks, which were particularly poisonous in regards to Louisville.
Ohio State's board of trustees, understandably mortified at Gee's outrageous remarks, sent him a letter of reprimand. Some are calling for Gee's head.
So what to make of this? First of all, I can't muster a lick of outrage. Ohio St. in general, and Gee in particular, are famous for their elitist attitude toward the rest of the NCAA universe. I'd say that Gee's comments, impolitic thought they were, fairly represent the views of most Ohio St. fans toward non-B1G schools. In response, I'd just like to point out that those of us in the SEC are literate enough to read the scoreboard that shows Ohio St. and the B1G on the short end when it comes to championships in major sports.
As a general proposition, when you find your rivals, or even some random school like Ohio St. mocking others and pointedly ignoring their own scandalous behavior, outrage is exactly the wrong response, and humor the correct one. One thing the SEC coaches do seem to understand pretty well lately is the NCAA rule book. That's something Ohio St. and Gee, hubris oozing out of every bodily and hypothetical orifice, could stand a little remedial instruction on. Nobody has been a bigger scofflaw of NCAA rules than OSU over the last 20 years. I'd also point out that Gee's remark during the Jim Tressel scandall that he hoped Tressel "doesn't dismiss" him illustrates perfectly the exact thing that the NCAA crushed Penn St.'s program for -- sports creating a culture of corruption.
As far as academics are concerned, I think it's great that Gee thinks so highly of OSU that he feels comfortable bashing Louisville, Kentucky, and the SEC. What we have seen revealed by Gee's comments is his true personality, and for some reason, I find it totally fitting that an abrasive elitist jerk with no self-control should be the head of Ohio St. A better fit could not possibly have been found, and frankly, I think he should be promoted to B1G Commissioner. I can see Jim "Dandy" Delaney in my minds eye in a state of intense erotic excitement over Gee's comments -- well, except for the part where he accused Delaney of stealing from the B1G member schools. Oops.
Gee's remarks about Catholics were particularly instructive. The illustrate the kind of resentment one feels when they know they are bargaining from weakness, as the B1G has always been when it comes to wooing Notre Dame. Gee has discovered that faith in God doesn't make one a pushover in negotiations, and if the power and pageantry of Roman Catholicism does not make that point adequately, Notre Dame's clear-eyed understanding of their market power in college sports certainly should. This is just green-eyed jealousy made manifest as a puerile remark.
I find Gee funny in a slapdash, geek kind of way. He reminds you of some kid bullied in high school finally rising to a position of power later in life and taking shots at every antagonist who thwarts his ambition. A small man, a man to who conflates scorn with humor. Plunk a big red nose on him, and you'd see him for what he is -- the kind of clown that makes kids fear them for the rest of their lives.
I like Gee just where he sits. He's a national treasure for the SEC, a guy we can always sit around and laugh about, who makes us feel both intellectually, socially and athletically superior without ever having to prove it, a guy for whom facts have only the most utilitarian meaning. I want to hear more from him, it makes me smile.