Gordon Gee apologizes to Big Ten

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The president of Ohio State has apologized to the Big Ten Conference for "hurtful remarks" he made last year about some university athletic programs.

In a statement Sunday, Gordon Gee says he apologized for his "misguided attempt at humor" before the university's Athletic Council in December. He says the Big Ten universities are "some of this country's most highly accomplished research institutions" and he's honored to lead a Big Ten school.

An Associated Press report last week revealed Gee said Notre Dame wasn't allowed to join the Big Ten because its leaders weren't good partners. He said its Roman Catholic priests were "holy hell" on days other than Sunday and joked "those damn Catholics" can't be trusted.

He also questioned the academic integrity of schools in the Southeastern Conference.

Gee also emailed Arkansas football coach Bret Bielema an apology in the wake of the inappropriate comments.

Gee said Bielema was viewed as a "thug" in the eyes of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez and that Bielema's departure as coach of the Badgers was a "blessing" for the university.

"Dr. E. Gordon Gee and I have spoken regarding comments he has now labeled as unfounded, inaccurate and unfair," Bielema said in a statement on Sunday. "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. Throughout my career, I have strived to make my name synonymous with high character, values and integrity, and I will continue to do so."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.