Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee speaks during the Ohio State University spring commencement in Columbus, Ohio, on Sunday, May 5, 2013. (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)

Ohio State President Gordon Gee Retiring After Scrutiny Over Bad Jokes

Gee's commentary about 'damned Catholics' and the academic rigor of other schools went over like a lead balloon.

Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee speaks during the Ohio State University spring commencement in Columbus, Ohio, on Sunday, May 5, 2013. (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)
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Ohio State University President Gordon Gee will retire July 1, the school announced Tuesday, following Gee's month-long series of apologies for remarks made in December 2012 at an Ohio State Athletic Council meeting.

In the controversial remarks that surfaced last month Gee referred to the University of Notre Dame as "damned Catholics," mocked the academic rigor of other schools and repeated gossip about former Wisconsin University head football coach Bret Bielema.

"I recently returned from a vacation with my family, during which time I had a chance to consider the university's phenomenal achievements and the road that lies ahead for it," Gee, 69, said in a released statement.

"Ohio State now has a richness of new opportunities that would be the envy of most universities," he said. "During my days away, I also spent some time in self-reflection. And after much deliberation, I have decided it is now time for me to turn over the reins of leadership to allow the seeds that we have planted to grow. It is also time for me to reenergize and refocus myself."

[RELATED: Ohio State University's U.S. News Profile]

In the most widely circulated clip from his December remarks, Gee said Notre Dame was not invited to join the Big Ten athletic conference because "[t]he fathers are holy on Sunday, and they're holy hell on the rest of the week. You just can't trust those damn Catholics on a Thursday or a Friday."

Gee apologized for his commentary in a statement to The Associated Press, which acquired an audio recording of the meeting through a public records request. "The comments I made were just plain wrong, and in no way do they reflect what the university stands for," he said in the initial statement. "They were a poor attempt at humor and entirely inappropriate."

Notre Dame described the commentary as "most regrettable" in a statement reported by ESPN. The Catholic school said Gee, a Mormon, had apologized.

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

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Other targets also received apologies.

In his remarks, Gee said of the University of Louisville, "[We] make certain that we have institutions of like-minded academic integrity – so you won't see us adding Louisville." He lumped the University of Kentucky in with Louisville. Spokesmen for both schools confirmed to The Lexington Herald-Leader that Gee called to apologize.

Bielema was personally ridiculed by Gee in December. The school's athletic director "thought [Bielema] was a thug," Gee said. "And he left just ahead of the sheriff." Gee said Bielema's departure to become the head coach of University of Arkansas' football team was "a blessing for Wisconsin."

Bielema recognized Gee's apology in a statement published by the Wall Street Journal.

"While I am appreciative he did apologize, my sincere hope is Dr. Gee realizes given the stature of his position the full power his words have to affect public perception," Bielema said. "Throughout my career, I have strived to make my name synonymous with high character, values and integrity, and I will continue to do so."

Gee served as president of Ohio State University from 1990 to 1997 and from 2007 to the present. The school, which serves around 64,000 students, described him as "an extraordinary leader" who "enhanced the university's academic profile" in the press release announcing Gee's retirement.

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