It's always a good time to be a Buckeye, but now seems to be an especially good time. Not only did the football and wrestling teams bring home national championships, but the men's lacrosse team came within a shot of the Final Four, the men's basketball team is about to have a player drafted in the top five, the baseball team has a good shot to make the postseason, and one could argue that the entire athletic department, from rowing to pistol to tennis and beyond, has never been in better shape. You can't blame Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith for being a happy guy right now.
But that doesn't mean that he's resting on his laurels. Over the last few days, Smith gave interviews to both Columbus Business First and Eleven Warriors on a variety of topics. There's a lot to unpack here, but here a few of the most interesting parts from both conversations.
Urban Meyer wants to retire at Ohio State
It wasn't too long ago that Ohio State gave Urban Meyer a raise and a contract extension that runs out to 2020, a no-brainer of a move after Meyer won a national championship, and has dominated during his time with the Buckeyes. According to 11W, it was Meyer that initiated that conversation, because he wants to stick around in Columbus for a long time.
Smith said he didn't alert Meyer of his raise until shortly after the Buckeyes downed Oregon, 42-20, at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, and it was actually the coach who brought up the extension.
"I don't know maybe a week (after informing Meyer of the raise), I was in his office, we were chatting and he said, 'Gene, I really think I'd like to try and do an extension because I want to be here, I want to retire here,'" Smith said. "We started talking about that and then it kind of dawned on me that he had three years left on his contract so we just talked about it and I said, 'Let's go to work. Let's get it done.'"
Meyer's work on the field has been outstanding, but Smith also continues to sing his praises for his work off the field. Here's what he said to CBF:
My philosophy is this: You pay talent consistent with performance and the market. And we don't create the market - the market defines itself. And (Meyer) has the team (ranked) No. 1 in the country, has won multiple championships, (has established) the whole culture of academic focus, behavioral, developing young men.
In that regard he is phenomenal. I see that every day. This summer he's requiring every single football player to do an internship or shadow someone. My guess is he's the only one in the country that is doing that. He's the number one coach in our league.
Yes. Even better than Harbaugh.
Alcohol at Ohio Stadium?
More and more schools have started to sell alcohol at football games. Previously, Minnesota, West Virginia, Cincinnati and others have allowed it, and most recently, Texas and Maryland have moved down that path. Selling alcohol at games could be a significant moneymaker, but many college administrators have been apprehensive, especially those with huge stadiums. Could Ohio State move down that path?
Smith told CBF, "At some point, one day, we'll make a decision of what we want to do. We always evaluate when we're ready to do that. We haven't yet taken the step yet of a customer survey where we could really get some feedback." Smith is aware that the school could make quite a bit of money from it ("We know it's north of seven figures"), but also added that "But we're a different place, we're huge." Smith told 11W that, "I would anticipate we would talk to Maryland and see what they go through this year and probably next year we would probably get into it a little more."
Don't expect booze at the Shoe in the near future, but Smith certainly didn't close the book on idea.
What's next on the agenda?
Ohio Stadium doesn't seem to need major renovations in the immediate future, and Ohio State doesn't look like they'll need to do a high profile coaching search soon either. So what's Smith up to these days? Fundraising. From the CBF interview:
It's really fundraising right now. We have three projects we're really focused on, capital projects we're trying to complete. Hopefully we start construction within the next two-year period. We need to raise about $70 million and we're sitting at about $52-$53 million.
The first is an arena - a 4,000-seat arena that will house wrestling, men's and women's volleyball, camp programs. The other one is a student athlete performance center - a 20,000-square-foot weight room, rehab area, offices for Olympic sport coaches, a small dining-room area. The last one is a wrestling facility.
My predecessor did a marvelous job ... with renovation of the 'Shoe. We needed to focus a lot on some of our Olympic sports. Down the road we need to look at ice hockey, track.
That arena is Covelli Arena, which will replace St.John's arena. Hopefully the school gets everything squared away soon so construction can start, and give the wrestling and volleyball programs a new home.
Does Smith agree with Delany's freshman ineligibility plan?
Last month, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany released a paper to many journalists that called for freshman ineligibility for football and men's basketball, as a remedy to poor graduation rates and academic performance. We agreed with Delany that those were problems, but criticized his potential solutions here. It seems that Gene Smith isn't totally on board with the idea either. Per 11W, "Smith said the topic is not on the agenda for next week's Big Ten meetings, but it'll likely be brought up." While he agreed that the conversation needs to be about improving academics, he didn't seem to be 100% on board with the rather blunt hammer Delany was advocating for.
"I'm not in support of freshman ineligibility for the student-athlete who's ready," Smith said. "You come in here, you graduated with a 29 ACT and a 3.7 GPA, what are we talking about? Why we doing that?"
Smith says Braxton Miller is sticking with Ohio State
Reports outside of Columbus have linked Braxton Miller to tons of other programs, from Duke, to Florida State, to Alabama, to Oregon, and beyond. We've continued to say that we had no reason to think that Miller was looking to leave, and even though Miller hasn't directly spoken to Columbus media for several months, we haven't changed our minds. Now, add Gene Smith to the list of voices close to the situation that say that Miller will be in Columbus.
Again, per 11W:
"My conversation with him was well before spring ball. He's working out in the weight room and we got into a conversation and I just asked him, I said, 'You good? All these rumors out there, you good? You need some help if you want to transfer?'" Smith said. "He said, 'Mr. Smith, I'm not going anywhere. I love it here.'"
If something changes, we'll be sure to let you know, but all signs continue to point towards Miller sticking with the Buckeyes, crowded depth chart be damned.