OSU President Gordon Gee Jabs Notre Dame, Catholics

OSU President Gordon Gee(Photo: Carmen Ambrosio / Flickr)
OSU President Gordon Gee(Photo: Carmen Ambrosio / Flickr)

The president of Ohio State University said Notre Dame was never invited to join the Big Ten because the university’s priests are not good partners, joking that “those damn Catholics” can’t be trusted, according to a recording of a meeting Gee attended late last year.

Gee on Catholics, Notre Dame

Listen to OSU President Gordon Gee’s comments about Catholics and Notre Dame

At the December meeting of the school’s Athletics Council, Gordon Gee took shots at schools in the Southeastern Conference and the University of Louisville, according to the recording, obtained by The Associated Press under a public records request.

The university called the statements inappropriate and said Gee is undergoing a “remediation plan” because of the remarks. Gee apologized in a statement released to the AP.

“The comments I made were just plain wrong, and in no way do they reflect what the university stands for,” he said. “They were a poor attempt at humor and entirely inappropriate.”

Gee, who has taken heat previously for uncouth remarks, told members of the council that he negotiated with Notre Dame officials during his first term at Ohio State, which began more than two decades ago.

“The fathers are holy on Sunday, and they’re holy hell on the rest of the week,” Gee said to laughter at the Dec. 5 meeting attended by Athletic Director Gene Smith and several other athletic department members, along with professors and students.

“You just can’t trust those damn Catholics on a Thursday or a Friday, and so, literally, I can say that,” said Gee, a Mormon.

The Big Ten had for years courted Notre Dame, but the school resisted, seeking to retain its independent status in college football. The school announced in September that it would join the Athletic Coast Conference in all sports except football. It also agreed to play five football games each year against ACC teams.

In the recording, Gee referred specifically to dealing with the Rev. Ned Joyce, Notre Dame’s longtime chief financial officer, who died in 2004. “Father Joyce was one of those people who ran the university for many, many years,” Gee said.

Gee said the Athletic Coast Conference added Notre Dame at a time when it was feeling vulnerable. “Notre Dame wanted to have its cake and eat it, too,” Gee said, according to the recording and a copy of the meeting’s minutes.

During the meeting, Gee also said he thought it was a mistake not to include Missouri and Kansas in earlier Big Ten expansion plans. Missouri has since joined the SEC.

“You tell the SEC when they can learn to read and write, then they can figure out what we’re doing,” Gee said, when asked by a questioner how to respond to SEC fans who say the Big Ten can’t count because it now has 14 members.

Gee noted he was chairman of the SEC during his time as Vanderbilt University chancellor. He also told his audience that speculation about the SEC “remains right here,” according to the recording.

Gee took a swipe at Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney, one of the most powerful leaders in college athletics, when he answered a question about preserving Ohio State’s financial interests in light of Big Ten revenue-sharing plans.

“No one admires Jim Delaney more than I do — I chaired the committee that brought him here,” Gee said. “Jim is very aggressive, and we need to make certain he keeps his hands out of our pockets while we support him.”

  • Marlene Talbott-Green PhD

    In the sense that we can’t trust some Catholic institutions to support the healthcare of women, especially reproductive healthcare, I would have to side with Gee.

  • Bilbo Baggies

    As the highest paid university pres in the country, you would think that his brain acts in conjunction with his mouth. Besides, it’s hard to imagine a Mormon being able to make such malicious statement with regard to a religious institution. As a non-practicing catholic, even I don’t lay into the cultist-like institution of Mormonism. Oops, did I say that?

  • Brett Johnson

    Mr. Schottenstein, as the president of the board of trustees, and Dr. Gee’s “boss,” I do believe it’s time to have a serious discussion with Dr. Gee. I realize he wields unending power when it comes to revenue generation, but a person in his position cannot continue to represent the university in such a manner.