Ohio State VP & AD Gene Smith recently sat down for a wide-ranging Q&A with Rabinowitz & Jones of the COLUMBUS DISPATCH, with topics including his views on the most recent football season, the current basketball campaign and issues facing the Big Ten. Below are excerpts from the Q&A.
Q: What's the state of the overall athletic program at Ohio State?
Smith: I think it’s pretty good. I’m real happy with what our kids are doing academically, which is our primary mission. Our graduation rates are up. Our success rate is 89 percent.
Q: What do you think is the biggest issue facing the Big Ten?
Smith: I think our involvement with the NCAA governing structure and making sure that everybody stays engaged with the process to move it along. I think coming up with strategies to make sure each school has what they need to allow their football teams to be successful. I think we’ve done that. Last year in the spring we had good conversations about making sure people were investing the right way.
Q: When you look at Rutgers and Maryland, they haven’t set the world afire and Rutgers has had its issues with coaches and its AD. Do you still feel those are good additions?
Smith: I do. We could have gone a number of ways. I think it was great for the league and really good for Penn State. People haven’t focused on that enough. Penn State was sitting out there like an appendage. Anybody could have plucked them. The ACC could have plucked them. The other one was [to] lock up a little bit of the East Coast with television. We’re doing that. We’re going to Navy next year. We’re playing in the Ravens stadium.
Q: What’s the status of all the construction projects?
Smith: We’re still fundraising. We’re fundraising for a wrestling practice facility. We’re still fundraising for the Covelli center. We have a third facility, a sports performance center. It’s really about a $60 million fundraising campaign for three facilities. Then we have other facilities planned down the road. We won’t start those projects until ’16 or 17. The campaign for those is starting now (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 2/2).
THE RIGHT CHOICE: A COLUMBUS DISPATCH editorial states OSU's decision to extend Smith's contract and promote him "recognizes his exceptional work on behalf of his students and school, and assures stability for the stellar program Smith has helped build." Smith has "performed well in a tough job; his department oversees 36 sports, including OSU’s cornerstone football and basketball teams, and is responsible for more than 1,000 young athletes." Smith is "known for having outstanding fiscal controls, including overseeing major athletics construction and renovation projects, and for his prolific fundraising." In partnership with OSU’s development staff, he has raised more than $400M. If OSU "could have created the perfect person for this job, that person would have had Smith’s resume" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 2/3).