Senior Vice President and Wolfe Foundation Endowed Athletic Director
The Ohio State University
Gene Smith is in his 18th year as director of athletics at The Ohio State University. Hired in 2005, he was promoted to Senior Vice President and Wolfe Foundation Endowed Athletics Director in May of 2016. Smith is only the eighth athletics director in Ohio State history, and he has the third-longest tenure in the position behind only L.W. St. John and Richard Larkins.
Ohio State’s student-athletes continue to excel in the classroom and on the fields of play under the leadership of Smith, who directs the nation’s largest and one of its elite athletic programs.
Smith is proud of the high-performance culture that has developed with the leadership of what he often refers to as “the best coaches and support staff in America.” Record achievements by individuals, teams, and the entire athletic program attest to Ohio State’s commitment to the development of the total student-athlete in a holistic way.
As the institution’s academic profile has increased, so too has the academic profile of its student-athletes. In the classroom, student-athletes continue to distinguish themselves with record numbers earning university, conference, and national honors. Last year, Ohio State boasted a record 788 OSU Scholar-Athletes, 552 Academic All-Big Ten honorees and 213 student-athletes earned their degrees.
During Smith’s tenure, Ohio State has dominated Big Ten Conference play, with 110 team and 346 individual conference championships. Nothing pleases Smith more than seeing student-athletes proudly display their championship rings –forever a reminder of their Ohio State experience.
On the national stage, Ohio State teams have won 28 team and 105 individual national championships during Smith’s tenure, a mark of competitive excellence, and collected 1,422 All-America honors. In doing so, Ohio State has established itself as a perennial Top 5 contender in the Learfield Director’s Cup. In 2021-22, the Buckeyes finished 4th.
Smith, a former student-athlete and coach, keeps a keen focus on the more than 1,000 student-athletes he serves. He is driven to provide for them all they need to grow academically, athletically, and socially during their time at Ohio State, and graduate with skills that transfer to success in life. Smith’s focus on “recruitment to career” is evidenced in this year’s graduating seniors with over 94% of them moving right into jobs, graduate school, or professional sports.
The Eugene D. Smith Leadership Institute – funded by private support – provides leadership, character, and career development for all Ohio State student-athletes to best prepare them for life after graduation. Institute programs include Bucks Go Pro internships, job shadows/micro-internships, Buckeye road trip, career fairs, Sundays in the Shoe, and Lead Like a Buckeye, among others.
Smith’s business acumen has resulted in strong fiscal performance and new resources have been used to enhance the student-athlete experience. Record setting third party agreements – with NIKE, LEARFIELD, LEVY and COKE, among others – have allowed for innovative and trend setting programs offered to student-athletes.
Fund raising is one of Smith’s gifts, and along with his development team, he has recently raised more than $150 million for the construction of the Schumaker Complex, Covelli Arena and Jennings Wrestling Center, Ty Tucker Tennis Center, and Lacrosse Stadium which will be ready for competition in Spring of 2023.
Smith’s duties extend beyond the athletic department as he also leads Ohio State’s Business Advancement unit comprised of the Schottenstein Center, Nationwide Arena, Trademark & Licensing, Affinity Agreements, Drake Event Center, Blackwell Inn and Fawcett Center. Smith’s team has increased revenues through innovation, collaboration and operational efficiencies.
Smith oversees a total of 486 employees in athletics and business advancement, with an annual budget of $315 million, and a football program with a $1.5 billion valuation, as estimated by the Wall Street Journal. But what Smith is most proud of is the exemplary culture within his units, recognized by Forbes as “one of the best ten organizations to work for in sports” and the only college program on its list.
After 38 years serving in the role of athletics director, Smith still delights in ensuring the student-athlete experience at Ohio State is exemplary and that its high-performance culture truly inspires young men and women to achieve their vast potential.
Smith currently serves on the Boards of Directors of the Columbus Sports Commission, Fiesta Bowl, National Football Foundation and Champions of Community. He is on the NCAA’s Name, Image and Likeness Review Committee, and is active with NACDA (National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics).
Smith grew up in Cleveland and attended the University of Notre Dame on a football scholarship. He played four years as defensive end for the Irish and was a member of their 1973 Associated Press national championship team.
Smith received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Notre Dame in 1977. He joined the Notre Dame coaching staff following graduation, under Dan Devine, and coached four seasons. He helped Notre Dame win the 1977 national championship.
Smith is the father of four children with his wife, Sheila: Matt, Nicole, Lindsey, and Summer, and they are grandparents to eight: Marshall, Steele, Addison, Grayson, Tyson, Elijah, Maya, and Jordyn. Outside of work Smith enjoys travel, golf, and spending time with family.