Administrator joins Buckeye staff after five years at Colgate
Smith will be recognized June 12 during National Association for Athletics Compliance Convention
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.
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 29th year in the role.
At Ohio State, the 57-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.
Smith has additional oversight responsibility for a recently created Business Advancement Division of Ohio State which includes: Schottenstein Center, Nationwide Arena, Blackwell Hotel, Drake Union, Fawcett Center, and Trademark & Licensing. Smith's business acumen has fostered collaboration and optimized revenue opportunities within each entity to ensure profitability.
The athletics department is completely self-supporting; it receives no university funds, tax dollars or student fees. In fiscal year 2012-13, the department transferred nearly $30 million in assessments to the university, including more than $16 million in grant-in-aid reimbursement. Smith is known for outstanding fiscal controls.
As a highly-recruited student-athlete and member of national championship teams as a college athlete and coach, Smith is passionate about the well-being of student-athletes and the championship experience.
"We want to create an environment for our student-athletes to be successful academically, athletically and socially," he said. "Intercollegiate athletics offers an unparalleled opportunity for young women and men to prepare for success in life."
Under Smith's leadership, the Ohio State athletics department has thrived, winning myriad conference and national, individual and team, athletic championships and awards. In 2012-13, Ohio State's football team finished the season a perfect 12-0 while men's basketball once again made it to the NCAA Elite Eight. The women's rowing team captured an NCAA national championship. Men's tennis fell just shy of a national title, losing a heartbreaker to UCLA in the NCAA semifinals, while tennis star Blaz Rola captured the individual NCAA national title, as did Logan Stieber (wrestling), Marco Canevari (fencing) and Michael Newburger (gymnastics).
Concurrent to athletic excellence has been the remarkable academic achievement by student-athletes during Smith's tenure. When Smith arrived, the overall student-athlete graduation rate was 65 percent. It is now 75 percent, with 50 percent of student-athletes maintaining a 3.0 grade point average or better. Ohio State football student-athletes graduated at a 49 percent rate the year Smith began his career in Columbus (2005-06). Last year (2012-13), the football student-athlete graduation rate improved to 58 percent. Smith's focus on academics - higher individual and team goals, additional academic support services, and recognition of excellence - has shifted the department's culture to reflect his philosophical focus on the total student-athlete.
In terms of the NCAA Graduation Success Rate improvement, all Ohio State student-athletes had a GSR of 80 percent in 2005-06. That has increased to 89 percent in the most recent NCAA report (Oct. 24, 2013). Over that same time frame, the GSR for football improved from 55 to 75 percent.
Smith has earned a reputation as an outstanding fund raiser, and along with his development team, he has raised millions of dollars for new and improved practice and competitive facilities. Smith has overseen major renovations to facilities for golf, softball, outdoor tennis, and indoor track; upgrading of women's and men's basketball locker rooms; and field replacement and track resurfacing at Jessie Owens Stadium.
At Ohio Stadium, Smith replaced natural grass with field turf, and installed new scoreboards, reader boards and an upgraded sound system. Men's basketball boasts a new practice facility, and both men's and women's basketball will train in new, state-of-the-art strength and conditioning areas and utilize an upgraded athletic training facility. The Harmon Family Park football practice facility, Field Hockey Stadium, Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium, the Boathouse for women's rowing, and soon-to-be-completed Jane and Walt Dennis Golf Performance Center are all outstanding additions to Ohio State's first class athletic venues.
Looking to the future, Smith developed the vision for the Athletic District, as a part of the University Framework Plan. The District includes: a 4,000 seat arena for men's and women's volleyball, wrestling, men's and women's gymnastics, camps and intimate concerts; Sports Performance center for student-athletes which includes lockers, weight room, and coaches offices; wrestling practice facility; 5,000 seat hockey venue; indoor track facility, and multiple practice fields. Smith's ambitious vision for the Athletic District will ensure first class facilities for Ohio State student-athletes for years to come.
Smith's national honors place him among the leaders of his profession. In May, 2013 Smith received the National Association for Athletics Compliance (NAAC) Award for organizational leadership and strong commitment to fostering a culture of compliance to NCAA rules.
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 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 Jan. 1, 2009 and Feb. 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.
The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame announced in June 2008 the recipients of the NFF's major awards. Smith was honored officially Dec. 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.
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 has an exemplary record of national leadership and service and is a sought after speaker on national athletic issues. 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 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.
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. He is a member of the Columbus Sports Commission, the boards of the YMCA of Central Ohio and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Columbus, and the governing board of trustees of the Lincoln Theater Association. He serves on the Kids Unlimited National Advisory Board, an organization committed to positively transforming the lives of inner-city children growing up in Toledo, Ohio. In addition, Smith and his wife, Sheila, support numerous community charities.
On campus, Smith is active with the Bell Center for African-American males, where he sponsors a mentoring program called Team Smith. Recently, Smith joined the Board of Directors of Insight Band, located in Worthington, Ohio.
Gene and Sheila, have four children: Matt, Nicole, Lindsey and Summer, and five grandchildren: Marshall, Steele, Addison, Grayson and Tyson.