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Ohio State Director of Athletics Gene Smith announces retirement in July 2024

Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith answers questions during a news conference on Dec. 4, 2018, in Columbus.
Jay LaPrete

Gene Smith, Ohio State's Director of Athletics, announced Wednesday morning that he will retire in July 2024.

Smith was named OSU's athletic director in 2005 and is entering his 19th year at the university.

He was named the senior vice president and Wolfe Foundation-endowed athletics director in May 2016.

Ohio State teams have won 115 team Big Ten titles under Smith. He had signed a four-year contract extension in 2021.

Smith, seen as one of the most influential ADs in the country, will step down as USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington join the Big Ten amid a rapidly changing landscape in college football in which Smith has been heavily involved.

He said his successor will have to fully embrace the recent seismic changes in college football, including realignment, NIL and the transfer portal.

“We just need to keep evaluating how (college football) should be structured," he said. "That relates to our scheduling as we integrate Oregon and Washington.

“Somewhere along the line we need to think differently about football,” said Smith, who once floated the idea of separating college football from the NCAA.

“I want to thank the leadership of The Ohio State University during my tenure for providing me the opportunity to serve as Senior Vice President and Wolfe Foundation Endowed Athletic Director for the past 18 years,” Smith said. “The presidents and many members of the Board of Trustees I have served afforded me the professional opportunity of a lifetime, and I am forever grateful.

Smith added, "I have always believed that a leader seeks to be the right person at the right time in the life of the institution. I believe that July 2024 is the right time to welcome new leadership to build upon what we have achieved and continue to build upon the great tradition of excellence in athletics and business advancement at Ohio State."

Smith, a Cleveland native, has been one of eight athletic directors at Ohio State and has the third-longest tenure. He played college football at Notre Dame, which won a national championship in his freshman year in 1973.

Before coming to Ohio State, Smith previously served as director of athletics at Arizona State, Iowa State and Eastern Michigan University.

In 2015, under Smith's guidance, Forbes recognized OSU's athletics department as one of the 10 best organizations to work for in sports.

Smith was suspended by Ohio State for two weeks in 2018 after an investigation into what he and former football coach Urban Meyer knew about the previous domestic violence arrest of an assistant coach. Meyer was suspended for three games and retired at the end of the season.

“That was hard,” Smith said. "During my career, there have been times when I wish I could have done something different. There's no question about it."

Smith helped steer the football program through a down year after the firing of coach Jim Tressel in 2011. That led to the hiring of Meyer, who won a national championship after the 2014 season.

The search for his successor will begin after the university selects a new president in November. Kristina Johnson resigned as Ohio State president last year.

Jared Clayton Brown is excited to join the WOSU News team a decade into his journalism career, which has included stops in several markets including Louisville and Atlanta.
George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.
Associated Press