Gordon Gee interim WVU president

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gordon Gee is returning to West Virginia University as interim president, five months after retiring from Ohio State after remarks he made jabbing Roman Catholics and Southeastern Conference schools were made public.

The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission approved Gee's hiring Friday, a day after WVU's board of governors made its recommendation without announcing a name.

Gee's stay is expected to be temporary and his salary was set at $450,000. Former WVU president Jim Clements accepted the same position at Clemson in November.

It marks the seventh time Gee, 69, has headed a major U.S. university, including two stints apiece at West Virginia and Ohio State.

WVU board chairman James Dailey said in a statement he's thrilled with Gee's appointment.

"He is a seasoned and respected higher education leader who has served five major universities over 33 years, and I am confident he will continue the great work going on here and the momentum this university is enjoying," Dailey said.

Gee is expected to visit the Morgantown campus Tuesday.

"I am delighted now to be able to come back -- and give back -- to the West Virginia University community while also continuing my commitments to Ohio State, as well as higher education in Ohio and nationally," Gee said in a statement issued by WVU.

Gee has stumbled through a series of verbal missteps for which he had to issue apologies. He retired in July after his remarks jabbed at Catholics and criticized Notre Dame and former Wisconsin football coach Bret Bielema, who now coaches Arkansas.

In those remarks, made a year ago Thursday to Ohio State's Athletic Council, Gee said Notre Dame was never invited to join the Big Ten because the school's religious leaders are not "good partners."

A Mormon, Gee also jokingly referred to "those damn Catholics," lampooned the academic integrity of the University of Louisville and SEC schools. He alleged that Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez considered Bielema a "thug." Gee also made mildly disparaging remarks about Alvarez and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.

Gee also laughingly suggested that someone would have to "shoot" Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith before Smith would allow Cincinnati to join the Big Ten.

These weren't the first cases of Gee speaking out of turn, and it was his penchant for inappropriate remarks that led to Ohio State trustees warning him in March that any additional missteps would lead to his termination.

In March 2010, as a memorabilia for cash and tattoos scandal involving then-football coach Jim Tressel heated up, Gee jokingly said that rather than consider firing Tressel, he was concerned that the popular coach "doesn't dismiss me."

Later that year, Gee compared the schedules of other major college football rivals to playing the "Little Sisters of the Poor." And last year Gee compared the challenges of leading a large university to the "Polish Army." He issued apologies for both those remarks.

Gee, who had remained at Ohio State as a law professor after his retirement, will take an unpaid leave of absence while serving at WVU.

Gee was WVU's law school dean from 1979 to 1981 and served as university president from 1981 to 1985. He also served as the president at Brown and Colorado, chancellor at Vanderbilt and on the board of directors at Massey Energy.

West Virginia governor Earl Ray Tomblin said he's "confident Gee will provide the leadership skills necessary to maintain the university's positive momentum."