According to Mark Schlabach's article on espn.com, OSU president Gordon Gee admitted where the real power lies in Columbus:
Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee said he never considered firing Tressel.
"No, are you kidding me?" Gee said. "Let me be very clear. I'm just hoping the coach doesn't dismiss me."
Gee was the president of my undergraduate school (not OSU) for a few years after I graduated, and I learned a little about him through the alumni magazine. Principally, he's kind of a weasel, which makes him a perfect fit for OSU. In addition, he likes to think of himself as kind of clever and cavalier (hence those stupid bow ties). So I'm sure he would say that his remark was just in jest. I think it's closer to the bone than he'd like to admit.
Here's a link to the article.