COLUMBUS, Ohio — The president of Ohio State University said Notre Dame was not 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 he attended late last year.
Gordon Gee also took shots at schools in the Southeastern Conference and the University of Louisville, according to the recording of the December meeting of the school’s Athletic Council that The Associated Press obtained under a public-records request.
The university called the statements inappropriate and said Gee is undergoing a “remediation plan” because of the remarks.
Gee was on a long-planned family vacation and not available for comment, said Ohio State spokeswoman Gayle Saunders. He 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 in the statement. “They were a poor attempt at humor and entirely inappropriate. There is no excuse for this and I am deeply sorry.”
Gee, who has taken heat before 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, several other athletic department members, 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 as it sought to retain its independent status in college football. In September, the school announced that it would join the Atlantic Coast Conference in all sports except football, but would play five football games each year against ACC teams.
Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown called the remarks regrettable.Gee contacted Notre Dame’s president, the Rev. John Jenkins, to offer an apology that was accepted, Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown said Thursday in an email, declining to say when the apology was made.
Gee was named the country’s best college president in 2010 by Time magazine. He has held the top job at West Virginia University, the University of Colorado, Brown University and Vanderbilt University.
He was Ohio State president from 1990 to 1997, and returned in 2007.