Gene Smith is in his ninth year as director of athletics at The Ohio State University. He is widely recognized among the leaders of his profession and has been named "one of the most powerful people in collegiate sport." Smith was named the Buckeyes' director of athletics March 5, 2005. On March 17, 2008, President E. Gordon Gee promoted Smith to assistant vice president/director of athletics and he has subsequently been named associate vice president/director of athletics.
Smith is the eighth person to hold the athletics director position at Ohio State and the first African-American to do so. He previously served as director of athletics at Arizona State, Iowa State and Eastern Michigan universities and is entering his 28th year in the role.
At Ohio State, the 56-year old Smith oversees the nation's most comprehensive and one of its most successful collegiate athletics programs. The department sponsors 36 fully-funded varsity sports with more than 1,000 student-athletes regularly competing for Big Ten Conference and NCAA championships.
The athletics department is completely self-supporting; it receives no university funds, tax dollars or student fees. In fiscal year 2010-11, the department transferred nearly $30 million in assessments to the university, including more than $15 million in grant-in-aid reimbursement. Smith is known for outstanding fiscal controls.
Since arriving at Ohio State, Smith has established himself as a respected and thoughtful leader within the department, university and community. In the spring of 2007, he unveiled a five-year strategic plan, reflecting the department's goals and values. Updated in 2011, the strategic planning process, inclusive of the entire department, emphasized the development of the total student-athlete.
As a former college athlete and coach, Smith is passionate about the well-being of student-athletes.
"We want to create an environment for our student-athletes to be successful academically, athletically and socially," he said. "The student-athlete experience provides teachable moments that prepare young women and men for success in life."
Under Smith's leadership, the Ohio State athletics department has thrived, winning myriad conference and national athletic championships and awards, while its student-athletes continue to earn academic awards. Most recently in 2010-11, Ohio State sent its field hockey, women's soccer, men's volleyball and men's tennis teams to the NCAA Final Four. The men's volleyball squad won the 2011 national championship while synchronized swimming captured the 2011 and 2012 U.S. Collegiate National Title. The department earned the No. 2 spot in the 2010-11 Learfield Sports Directors' Cup race, the best finish for the Buckeyes in the annual competition. The 2012 men's basketball squad advanced to the program's 10 Final Four and the fencing team captured the 2012 NCAA title.
From May 2011 and running through July 1, 2014, Smith will serve as a member of the NCAA Division I Administration Cabinet, which oversees and recommends membership to NCAA committees. He recently joined the Kids Unlimited National Advisory Board, an organization committed to positively transforming the lives of inner-city children growing up in Toledo, Ohio, and the Insight Bank Board.
In May 2010 Smith was honored as the Sport Business Journal Athletic Director of the Year. The award was based on excellence and outstanding achievement in the business of sports for the period between January 1, 2009 and February 29, 2010.
In the spring of 2008, the Ohio State athletics department was honored with the Diversity in Athletics Award in the category of Overall Excellence in Diversity. Smith accepted the honor at the 43rd annual National Association of College Directors of Athletics convention in Dallas.
Shortly after the department was honored for its dedication to diversity, Smith has individually recognized for his contribution to the sport of football. The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame announced in June 2008 the recipients of the NFF's major awards. Smith was honored officially December 9, 2008 in New York with the John L. Toner Award. Presented annually, the Toner Award is given to a director of athletics who has demonstrated superior administrative abilities and shown outstanding dedication to college athletics and particularly college football.
Smith has an exemplary record of national leadership and service. He completed his fifth year on the prestigious NCAA Men's Basketball Committee in 2011, for which he served as chair for the 2010-11 academic year.
In 2007, he served as president of the Division 1-A Athletic Directors Association. He also served on the Basketball Academic Enhancement Group, a 27-member panel charged with developing strategies to enhance academic performance and graduation rates in Division I men's basketball.
Smith is past president of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) and was that organization's first African-American president. He also has served on the NCAA Management Council, the NCAA Committee on Infractions, the NCAA Executive Committee, the NCAA Football Rules Committee, the President's Commission Liaison Committee, the NCAA Baseball Academic Enhancement Task Force and the National Football Foundation Honors Court, among others.
At the 2011 NACDA convention, Smith was recognized as the 2010 Carl Maddox Sports Management Award Recipient. The honor is given annually to an individual for his/her contributions to the growth and development of sport enterprise through effective management practices.
In recognition for his service, Smith was named by Black Enterprise Magazine as one of the "50 Most Powerful African Americans in College Sports." In 2007 he was named to NACDA's inaugural "Legends Class," and also was named Athletic Administrator of the Year by the Black Coaches Association (BCA). In 2002-03, Smith received NACDA's AD of the Year honor for the Division 1-A West Region.
Smith grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and attended the University of Notre Dame on a football scholarship. He played four years of football as a defensive end for the Irish and was a member of the 1973 Associated Press national championship team.
Smith received his bachelor's degree in business administration from Notre Dame in 1977. Following graduation, he joined the Notre Dame coaching staff under Dan Devine and remained in that capacity until 1981. The 1977 Notre Dame team captured the undisputed national championship.
Smith left Notre Dame following the 1981 season to accept a marketing position with IBM. He returned to college athletics in April 1983 as assistant athletics director at Eastern Michigan University. In 1985, he was appointed interim director of athletics at Eastern Michigan, a position he held until 1986 when he became director on a full-time basis.
In 1993, Smith was named director of athletics at Iowa State University. He moved to Arizona State as director of athletics in 2000.
Smith is active in the Columbus community and is a member of the board of the YMCA of Central Ohio, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Columbus, the Columbus Sports Commission and the governing board of trustees of the Lincoln Theater Association. He also is active with the Bell Center for African-American males on Ohio State's campus, where he sponsors a mentoring program called Team Smith.
Gene and his wife, Sheila, have four children: Matt, Nicole, Lindsey and Summer, and five grandchildren: Marshall, Steele, Addison, Grayson and Tyson.