Feb. 22, 2016
CLEVELAND – – The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) announced today that NACDA Past President and Ohio State Vice President and Wolfe Foundation Endowed Athletics Director Gene Smith, has been selected by the NACDA Officers and Executive Committee to be the recipient of the 50th James J. Corbett Memorial Award, the highest honor one can achieve in collegiate athletics administration. Smith served as NACDA President in 1994-95. He will be honored at the James J. Corbett Awards Luncheon on Wednesday, June 15 in conjunction with the 2016 NACDA Convention in Dallas, Texas.
“It is with great pride that we present Gene Smith with this year’s James J. Corbett Award,” said NACDA Executive Director Bob Vecchione. “From his days as a student-athlete, Gene has honed his skills and become a bona fide leader in intercollegiate athletics. To this day, despite his hectic schedule and numerous responsibilities at Ohio State, Gene continues to support NACDA and its many initiatives and has become a driving force behind the John McLendon Foundation.”
The Corbett Award is presented annually to the collegiate administrator who “through the years has most typified Corbett’s devotion to intercollegiate athletics and worked unceasingly for its betterment.” Corbett, athletics director at Louisiana State University, was NACDA’s first president in 1965. Additionally, Smith will receive an honorary degree from the Sports Management Institute (SMI), an educational institute sponsored by NACDA and the universities of Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Southern California and Texas.
“I am both honored and humbled to receive an award named for James Corbett from an organization as highly regarded as NACDA,” said Smith. “After my first year in athletics administration, Mike Cleary reached out to engage me in NACDA. I would not be where I am today if not for Mike, NACDA, and the many colleagues from whom I have been blessed to learn over the past 33 years.”
Smith has been the athletics director at Ohio State since 2005, and was elevated to vice president and director of athletics in January 2014. He oversees one of the nation’s most comprehensive and most successful collegiate athletics programs. Under Smith’s leadership, the Ohio State athletics department has thrived, winning a myriad of conference and national, individual and team, athletic championships and awards. Concurrent to athletics excellence has been the remarkable academic achievement by student-athletes during Smith’s tenure. 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 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.
In addition to being a NACDA Past President, he also has served on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Committee for five years (serving as chair in 2010-11), 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.
In June 2015, Smith was added to the Concussion Assessment, Research and Education (CARE) Consortium as a member of the CARE Consortium Scientific Advisory Board (SAB). The board helps provide input relative to the understanding of concussion-related issues. He also currently serves on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee (2015-18).
Prior to his time at Ohio State, Smith served as director of athletics at Arizona State, Iowa State and Eastern Michigan. A Cleveland, Ohio native, Smith 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 and his wife Sheila, have four children, Matt, Nicole, Lindsey, and Summer and six grandchildren.
What people around the industry are saying about Gene Smith:
NACDA Past President John Swofford, Commissioner, Atlantic Coast Conference
“I was extremely pleased to pass the NACDA President gavel to Gene in 1994, as he became the first African American to serve in that role. Gene is the consummate professional – smart, value driven, experienced, accomplished, respected, energetic, creative and dedicated to our profession. His impact on our world has been immeasurable and he is so deserving of NACDA’s most prestigious award.”
NACDA Past President Kevin Anderson, Director of Athletics, University of Maryland
“Gene has changed our industry for the better. Intercollegiate athletics is great because of the Gene Smith’s of the world. I would not be sitting in my seat if it wasn’t for Gene Smith. He is a true trailblazer! Gene truly deserves this prestigious award! God bless him and what he stands for.”
NACDA Past President Judy Rose, Director of Athletics, University of North Carolina — Charlotte
Gene is the epitome of the definition of Athletic Director. He was a great athlete and he brings that experience directly to the forefront in making sure that the student athlete experience is a priority . He has never forgotten his roots and the journey that took him to The Ohio State University. He supports the development of aspiring athletic administrators and has mentored many who are now serving as colleagues and fellow ADs. I cannot think of a more deserving person for the prestigious Corbett Award.
NACDA Past President Bill Byrne, former Director of Athletics at Texas A&M University, University of Nebraska, and University of Oregon
“I was so pleased to learn that my friend and colleague Gene Smith was named as the Corbett Award winner for 2016. He is a magnificent choice.
It was my good luck to work with Gene on NCAA, NACDA and Division 1-A boards and committees. He is smart, resourceful and very hard working. Anytime Gene was involved with a project, you could be assured that it would be handled in a first class manner with outstanding results.
Gene cares deeply for student athletes, coaches and staff and makes sure they have the support necessary to win and have a good experience while doing so. He is dedicated to seeing that all the athletes have broad educational opportunities leading to meaningful degrees that the athlete can use for a lifetime.
NACDA has a terrific role model for all involved in college athletics as its newest Corbett Award winner!” NACDA Past President Dan Guerrero, Director of Athletics, UCLA “Gene Smith is a titan in the collegiate athletic enterprise. A dear friend and confidant, we have served together on many NCAA national committees throughout the years and have even sat across the table from each other during Pac-12 meetings when he was athletics director at Arizona State. A long-time leader in this industry, Gene is masterful at his craft and committed to being the best. He has worked tirelessly to better both the student-athlete experience and collegiate athletics as a whole. I have no greater respect for anyone in this business and cannot think of someone more deserving of this prestigious honor.”