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Tigers topple Buckeyes News hits, PR musings

It’s better to be lucky than good.

There is little credit that we can take for discovering that the daughter of Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel is an RIT student. That credit goes to the wonder that is Google.

All of us at University News subscribe to receive Google News Alerts, via e-mail, whenever Rochester Institute of Technology is referenced in a news story. Colleague Brandon Borgna spotted an alert from an Ohio newspaper referencing that Tressel’s daughter, Whitney, attended RIT.

Being a college football junkie, that caught my attention. Why would the daughter of one of the top college football coaches in the country, who could attend Ohio State at little or no cost, decide to come to RIT?

So I tracked her down and, in the interest of promoting RIT, Whitney agreed to be interviewed.

I think her story, which is featured on the new University News Web site, is fascinating. She spent her entire life in the spotlight that was shining upon her father. RIT was appealing, not just because of its top-notch photography program, but because it offered some shade from that bright light.

Months went by before a single person realized her father was a sports celebrity. And when it did become public, few pestered her about it.

“It hasn’t, and I don’t think ever will, get to the point where I am known as ‘Coach Tressel’s daughter’ here,” Whitney says. “I am just Whitney around RIT. And I am very thankful for that.”

She values her privacy. Whitney is a rarity among college students—one who does not have an AIM instant messenger screen name, a Facebook account or a MySpace account.

“Why would I want to lead a more public life,” Whitney asks. “I’m trying to lead a normal life. I’d so much rather talk to someone face-to-face, or on the phone. It’s just so impersonal to me.”

Whitney tries not to complain about the attention, however. She’s well aware of the perks that come along with having a famous father. However, she demonstrates a deep appreciation for the normalcy that she has found at RIT.

Again, I thought it was compelling stuff. However, not everyone here at University News agreed with that assessment. Some questioned its news worthiness. Their argument was this: who cares if a student’s father is a famous sports figure?

However, to me, that’s the crux of the story. At RIT, few people do care. That’s a part of what makes RIT unique and a large part of why Whitney loves it here. Had she chosen to attend Ohio State, or any other football school for that matter, her life would be quite different—and quite possibly, based on her eagerness to avoid the spotlight, not for the better.

And in the end, that argument won out. The article was one of the lead stories in News & Events and the featured story when our new Web site launched Tuesday evening.

We can thank Google for that.


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