Ohio State President Apologizes for Joking About Notre Dame, Catholics

Gordon Gee, president of The Ohio State University, has apologized for joking statements he made last year about Catholics and the University of Notre Dame.

"The comments I made were just plain wrong, and in no way do they reflect what the university stands for," Gee said in a statement emailed to CP. "They were a poor attempt at humor and entirely inappropriate. There is no excuse for this, and I am deeply sorry."

During a meeting of his school's athletic council in December, Gee said he had negotiated with Notre Dame officials during his first stint as Ohio State's president in the 1990s. The Catholic university had not been invited to join the Big Ten conference because the school's priests are bad partners, he said, according to The Associated Press. The AP obtained a recording of that meeting through a public records request.

"The fathers are holy on Sunday, and they're holy hell on the rest of the week," Gee said to laughter at the time. "You just can't trust those damn Catholics on a Thursday or a Friday, and so, literally, I can say that."

He also specifically referenced the Rev. Ned Joyce, Notre Dame's longtime chief financial officer who passed away several years ago, saying Joyce "was one of those people who ran the university for many, many years."

Notre Dame spokesperson Dennis Brown told CP in an emailed statement that Gee has reached out to Notre Dame President John Jenkins about his comments.

 "We find the remarks most regrettable, particularly regarding Father Joyce, who served Notre Dame and collegiate athletics so well and for so long," said Brown. "President Gee has contacted Father Jenkins to offer an apology that he has accepted."

Gee is not only under fire for his remarks about Catholicism, but also because he mocked several other schools during the same December meeting, AP reports.

Gee said Big Ten presidents make it their top priority to "make certain that we have institutions of like-minded academic integrity," adding that the University of Louisville is therefore excluded and the University of Kentucky will not be added to the conference either. He also said the Big Ten should have included Missouri, a school that now belongs to the Southeastern Conference, and Kansas in the conference's earlier expansion plans.

"You tell the SEC when they can learn to read and write, then they can figure out what we're doing," said Gee, in response to a question about how to respond to SEC fans who criticize the Big Ten for now having 14 member schools.

Robert H. Schottenstein, chair of Ohio State's Board of Trustees, said in a statement that the board became aware of Gee's comments during a Jan. 31 meeting. The board later met with Gee, who has "fully acknowledged the inappropriateness of his remarks" and is now going through an "ongoing remediation plan to address his behavior."

"These statements were inappropriate, were not presidential in nature, and do not comport with the core values of the university," said Schottenstein. "For the leader of a renowned university, inappropriate comments about particular groups, classes of people or individuals are wholly unacceptable and are not in line with what we aspire to be as an institution of higher education."

It's not the first time Gee has made controversial comments about Catholics. In 2010, Gee told AP that football teams like Boise State and Texas Christian University shouldn't be permitted to play in the Bowl Championship Series title game because they don't play anybody challenging.

"We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor," he said, referring to an order of Catholic nuns. Gee ended up sending a personal check to the Little Sisters of the Poor in Oregon, Ohio, and later visited them.