Big Ten Chair Reacts To Gee's Retirement

By Scott Dochterman, Reporter

University of Iowa President Sally Mason addresses the Legislature about budget cuts, one of the results of which has led to the University loosing faculty members to other schools, Wednesday February 9, 2011 in Des Moines. (Becky Malewitz/SourceMedia Group News)

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By Grant Burkhardt

IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa President Sally Mason said Wednesday she was “surprised” when she learned of Ohio State colleague Gordon Gee’s decision to retire at the end of this month.

Gee, 69, came under scrutiny last week when a tape from an Ohio State Athletic Council meeting last December revealed several disparaging comments about Catholics, Southern colleges and former Wisconsin football coach Bret Bielema. Gee apologized to his fellow presidents, chancellors and Big Ten officials on Sunday at their spring Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors meeting. He announced his retirement on Tuesday, effective July 1.

“When we saw the comments that were made, Gordon has been apologizing, obviously, to a number of groups,” said Mason, the council’s chairwoman, before Wednesday’s Board of Regents meeting. “He came forward to make the apology to his colleagues in the Big Ten for both the inappropriateness of his comments and also for talking about the conference and the conference commissioner.”

Gee also told his athletic council that the Big Ten had made a mistake by not inviting Missouri and Kansas, admitted the league could have ambitions for other schools in the southeast and needs to become “predatory” in expansion.

When asked if Gee’s Big Ten colleagues share his sentiments toward expansion, Mason replied, “No, not really.”

“It’s unfortunate that these comments, which I believe were made in jest, were just really over the top,” she said.

Mason also used kind words to describe Gee, calling him “at heart a very gracious gentleman.”

“He does fancy himself to be very humorous and funny,” Mason said. “I actually listened to his comments. You can hear the humor in his voice. But he himself said that didn’t excuse some of the inappropriateness of some of the things that he said.

“Gordon is truly one of the icons in higher education today. He’s been a president for a long, long time at many different places. We all looked to him from time to time for wisdom and for guidance. He will be missed.”

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