It was a throwaway line, intended to lighten the mood after an ominous revelation by one of the most decorated college football programs in the land.
Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee had just heard his head football coach, Jim Tressel, concede that he had reason to believe several star players were taking money and free tattoos from a suspected drug dealer and yet he had told no one. Tressel started most of those players throughout the 2010 season and a bowl game anyway, failing to alert anyone in authority -- a clear violation of NCAA rules and his own contract.
Gee, an endowment rainmaker wearing his trademark bow tie, jumped in to defend Tressel and then, asked if he had considered firing his coach, uttered an off-hand crack.
"Let me just be very clear," Gee said with a grin, "I'm just hopeful the coach doesn't dismiss me."
The joke fell flat, but echoed around the country. It confirmed what many already believed about the balance of power in college sports today: some football teams run universities, not the other way around.