Like him or not, Gene Smith is going to be around for a while at Ohio State.
The Buckeyes’ director of athletics – whose approval rating among fans isn’t the highest but who is considered by many one of the top performers in his field – received a promotion and contract extension Tuesday, OSU interim president Joseph Alutto announced.
Per a release from Ohio State, Smith’s new contract extends his term for an additional four years, from June 30, 2016, to June 30, 2020, and also formalizes his added responsibilities as vice president.
Smith’s base salary, effective July 1, 2013, is $940,484 per year, and he is eligible for standard, university wide merit-based salary increases each year. His compensation is paid entirely through athletics department revenues, using no tuition or tax dollars.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to lead the athletics program at a university with a national reputation for excellence that encompasses a broad-range of areas,” Smith said in a statement. “Working with the coaches, athletics staff, faculty and staff across the university enables us to provide positive experiences for the young people we serve, while finding ways to help them become global citizens impacting the world,” he continued.
“Ohio State is an amazing institution and I am proud to be a Buckeye.”
Smith has been at the university since 2005, when he replaced Andy Geiger to become the school’s eighth athletics director. His on-field accomplishments include the hiring of two-time national championship head coach Urban Meyer to lead the football program and overseeing a department that finished an OSU-best second in the Director’s Cup standings that measure success across all sports in 2011.
Smith has also implemented more personalized academics plans for student-athletes, and OSU’s results in the classroom have been nothing short of fantastic. No Ohio State programs are in any danger of facing sanctions for academics anytime soon, and the department’s Federal Graduation Rate has gone from 69 percent in 2005-06 to 76 percent in 2012-13. Smith has seen 2,408 academic all-Big Ten selections and 336 Big Ten Distinguished Scholars, over 1,500 student-athletes graduate and 80 athletes return to Ohio State to graduate from the Degree Completion Program.
In addition to overseeing the university’s intercollegiate athletics programs, Smith now has joint oversight responsibility with the Office of Business and Finance for the Business Advancement Division of Ohio State. Business Advancement includes: the Jerome Schottenstein Center, the Blackwell Inn, Drake Union, the Fawcett Center and the Office of Trademark and Licensing Services.
Smith also has responsibility for the Nationwide Arena Management agreement to increase existing revenue streams and pursue new revenue opportunities through creative collaboration and innovation. In addition, he will partner with the Office of Business and Finance for responsibility of the university’s affinity agreements.
As a successful fund raiser, in partnership with the development staff, he has raised over $400,000,000, per Ohio State.
"Gene Smith is one of this country’s most accomplished collegiate athletics directors, with an exemplary record of national leadership and service,” Alutto said. “Thanks to his dedication to student success, graduation success rates of Ohio State’s student-athletes have risen by 11 percentage points, to 89 percent. His vision and commitment to excellence have made Ohio State’s Department of Athletics one of the strongest in the nation. Expanding his leadership reach to work more closely with other university functions can only strengthen us all. ”
Smith’s was honored with the 2013 National Association for Athletics Compliance Organizational Leadership Award, recognizing leaders who have demonstrated outstanding commitment to promoting compliance within their organization and at a national level, and he was chosen as the Sports Business Journal Athletics Director of the Year in 2010. Smith also accepted the Diversity in Athletics Award in 2008 for overall excellence in diversity within the Ohio State department of athletics.
His approval rating among fans has been up-and-down, though, with many accusing him of bungling Ohio State’s handling of the NCAA investigation into the football program that ended with the team facing a postseason ban in 2012.
Ohio State has also fallen of late in the Director’s Cup standings, finishing 16th last year to snap a five-year run of top-10 finishes. Through fall sports this year, only football and women’s soccer earned points, and Ohio State sits in just 69th place, a number that will likely rise throughout the year as the 36-sport department goes through winter and spring sports.
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