Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith gets contract extension

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gene Smith is receiving a four-year contract extension that would keep him in place as the athletics director at Ohio State into 2026.

The new agreement, which was obtained by The Columbus Dispatch on Wednesday, remained subject to approval at a university board of trustees committee meeting that began in the morning and could appear for a vote by the full board Thursday. It was signed in March by Smith and president Kristina M. Johnson.

Smith had one year remaining on his contract following a two-year extension that took effect last year. It now runs through June 30, 2026.

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"It's an honor to continue to serve the flagship university in my home state," Smith wrote in a text message. "I appreciate the support of President [Kristina] Johnson and the Board of Trustees."

Under new terms that begin in July, Smith will make more than $2 million each year, receiving an annual base salary worth $1.58 million and supplemental compensation for media, promotion and public relations totaling $480,000.

Other benefits could add hundreds of thousands to his income over the 2021-22 academic year.

By remaining as athletics director through June of 2022, he becomes eligible for a $300,000 retention bonus and a $200,000 life insurance premium payment by the school. In July, he’s also owed a $125,000 lump sum payment. So in the first year of his deal, beginning July 1, he will make $2,727,000.


That figure will make Smith the highest-paid athletics director at a public school, going past Texas’ Chris Del Conte, who is scheduled to make $2.42 million in his 2021-22 contract year.

During the current fiscal year that ends on June 30, Smith is bringing in $1.47 million between his base salary and supplemental media-related compensation.

Gene Smith received a contract extension that will keep him as athletics director at Ohio State through June 2026.
Gene Smith received a contract extension that will keep him as athletics director at Ohio State through June 2026.

The figure includes a voluntary 5% pay cut he took last fall as a measure to help the athletics department manage significant financial losses following the coronavirus pandemic. The Buckeyes played a reduced football schedule that began in late October and no fans were permitted to attend games at Ohio Stadium, leaving it without tens of thousands of dollars in revenue from ticket sales.


As one of the veteran administrators within college sports, Smith had been the subject of speculation surrounding the Pac-12’s search to replace Larry Scott as its commissioner.

But Smith had said he was not a candidate, and the conference ultimately hired sports entertainment executive George Kliavkoff last week.

While Smith turned 65 last December and has been at the helm of the department since 2005, he has not hinted at any plans to retire.

In an interview earlier this year, he said he would remain in his role for as long as Johnson, who took over for former president Michael V. Drake last year, wanted him.


“I’ve never thought about how I'm going to retire on X date,” Smith said. “I've been blessed. I’m healthy. So I’m just going to continue to work, and if the boss wants to make a change, then I’ll respond to that.”

When the new contract ends in June of 2026, Smith will be 70, and he would be the first Ohio State athletics director since Dick Larkins to spend more than two decades in the role. Larkins was at the helm of the department from 1947-70.

In a presentation prepared for Ohio State’s board of trustees, a points of pride document highlighted some of the athletics department’s recent accomplishments during Smith’s tenure, pointing to rising graduation rates, success in football that included reaching the national championship game and increased fundraising.

Smith tapped Ryan Day to succeed Urban Meyer following the coach's retirement in 2018. In two seasons, Day is 23-2, the only losses occurring in the College Football Playoff.


Email Joey Kaufman at jkaufman@dispatch.com and follow him on Twitter @joeyrkaufman

This article originally appeared on Buckeye Xtra: Ohio State athletics director Gene smith will make $2.7M in 2021-22