YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Wednesday evening at 7:30 p.m., WKBN will air a half-hour special called “Fair Play: A Conversation About Sports and Race.” One person we included in the conversation was Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel.
Before Tressel was president of YSU, he coached the Penguins’ football team and then coached at Ohio State University.
He said he was very aware of the different racial backgrounds of his players, and intentionally created activities to bring them together.
“If you spend time with someone else that might not look like you or might not think like you, might not act like you or believe like you, you’re going to grow to appreciate them because you’ll find out that you’re more similar than you are dissimilar,” he said.
Tressel couldn’t recall any overt cases of racism but said he could tell when players were not getting along, and he had a solution for that.
“It gave you that moment to say, ‘Hey, you know, hey, those two guys need to room together on the road next week,'” he said.
Tressel’s father was a legendary football coach at Baldwin-Wallace. He remembers his father dealing with the racial unrest of the late 1960s.
“Wanting to be there and hear concerns, wanting to be a voice of reason but also a voice of understanding that what he didn’t understand,” Tressel said.
Now that he’s president of a university, Tressel has come more into contact with the general student population and not just the football team. What he has noticed is that young people today have a greater desire to learn about people around them who might be different.
“We always talk about, what’s this world going to look like when my grandkids are my age? I hope what it looks like is that no one even has to discuss racism because that’s not even in anyone’s thought process,” Tressel said.
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