Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.
Today’s Question: Which former Buckeye would you like to see as a future Ohio State AD?
The UW System Board of Regents on Wednesday morning approved a contract with McIntosh, 44, a former Badgers football player who will be only the third UW athletic director in 32 years. https://t.co/X0ZSEhRSpJ— Madison.com Sports (@MadisonSport) June 2, 2021
Jami’s Take: Aaron Craft
The stakes are high in the Ohio State athletic department, so managing it requires tremendous, well-rounded leadership under pressure, along with a certain level of business finesse. Passion and athletic experience are not enough when it comes to navigating the world of Division I sports. If I’m trusting a former Ohio State athlete to run the athletic department, it would have to be Aaron Craft.
For those of you whose memories fail them, Aaron Craft was the Buckeyes’ highly decorated point guard from 2010-2014. In June 2020, the Big Ten Network named Craft to the “All-Decade Basketball Team.” But it wasn’t just his athletic accomplishments that make him the correct choice here. Craft — a three-time first team Academic All-America selection and repeat Division I Men’s Basketball Academic All-America Team Member of the Year — was also known for his academic achievements and his leadership on and off the court, something that would serve him well as athletic director.
It goes without saying that an athletic director needs to understand sports at the highest level, and the Buckeyes were impressive during Craft’s run with the team. He’s no stranger to the spotlight or high-pressure situations, so he would certainly be able to guide the athletic department even when under scrutiny. His competitive spirit and drive to win would be an asset in a job that involves — at a surface level — winning games.
But the athletic director’s role goes far beyond wins and losses. They must also be able to set the program up for long-term success. This can include handling the business side of athletics, dealing with contracts that can go into the millions, managing head coaches (who, at Ohio State, are powerful figures), fundraising, and working on media rights negotiations.
Craft is an extremely intelligent guy. In August 2020, he enrolled in medical school at Ohio State; after med school, athletics and business would probably seem like a piece of cake. But in addition to having the smarts to navigate the business side, Craft has been praised for his work ethic and his obsession with overachieving. Both of these would serve him well as AD, a grueling, time-consuming job that, these days, requires you to deliver results or pack your bags. He seems like the kind of guy who would take initiative to learn anything he didn’t know going in.
Craft is also well-respected. His coaches loved him; his teammates loved him. The only people who seemed to have a problem with Craft were the fans of opposing teams. He was also a powerhouse player but never the top dog. His ability to share the spotlight, charm the people around him and build positive relationships would help him navigate the complex relationships between athletic director and coaches. He’s humble enough to ask for help and collected enough to stay calm in the face of adversity. And as someone who has openly talked about how important character is to him, he would protect the integrity of the athletic department.
Truthfully, I cannot speak to Craft’s fundraising skills other than to say he once participated in a fundraiser I attended at bd’s Mongolian Grille. However, there was stir-fry involved, and he did a very good job, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say he’d be able to handle this aspect of the job too.
Ultimately, it takes a well-rounded person to serve as athletic director. It is not enough to have been a star athlete back in the day. Craft has the intellect to manage the business side. He has the work ethic and drive that would ensure success. He would have no trouble earning the respect of his coaches. He could also possibly stir-fry his way to some money for the program.
And so, if I had to choose a former Buckeye to serve as athletic director, I’d trust Aaron Craft to bring home wins for the Buckeyes. But more than that, I’d trust him to lead the department with integrity, to put his people skills to use, and to ensure Ohio State continues to be a powerhouse that earns the respect of fans, media, athletes, coaches, and other programs for years to come.
Matt’s Take: Katie Smith
Wow, we both went with a bit of a swerve this week, huh? In picking a former athlete to run the athletic department at a blue-blood football school, we both picked basketball players. Now, if this was 15 or 20 years ago, my pick obviously would have been different for multiple reasons (not the least of which that Smith would have still been in the middle of her Hall of Fame playing career), but if you had asked me this question at that time, I would have gone with college football’s only two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin, who served as an assistant AD at Ohio State and later lead the Alumni Association.
However, you didn’t ask me this question two decades ago, so I am standing by my pick of one of the most decorated and accomplished athletes in all of Ohio State history. When Katie Smith’s career at Ohio State ended in 1996, she owned the women’s basketball program record for the most career points by an OSU women’s basketball player, most games played, most field goals made, most three pointers made, and many more.
After moving on to the professional ranks, she led the hometown Columbus Quest to championships in the ABL’s only two years of operation, before heading to the WNBA where she was a seven-time all-star, finals MVP, and two time champion (amongst many other honors).
Then there is her international career. Smith is the proud owner of three Olympic gold medals with another two from the FIBA Word Cup. She is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, and Ohio State’s Varsity O Hall of Fame, and probably a few other random halls of fame that I’m not aware of.
But by this point, you might be asking, “What does her on-court accolades have to with leading the largest athletic department in collegiate sports?”
The answer is: Nothing, really. But it’s important to keep in mind just how dominant of a player she was, and how very few — if any — former team-sport Buckeyes can live up to her post-college resume.
But, to get back to the question at hand, following her playing career, Smith continued her involvement in athletics as a coach, first as an assistant for the New York Liberty in the WNBA, before taking over as the head coach in the 2018 and 2019 seasons. During her time with the Liberty, both as an assistant and the head coach, fellow former OSU great Herb Williams was also on the staff. Smith is now an assistant coach with the Minnesota Lynx in the WNBA.
In addition to her coaching career, she is also one of the co-presenters of the Girls Basketball Association’s Katie Smith Classic in her hometown of Logan, Ohio. The tournament hosts over 120 teams from grades three through 11.
So, while she has no actual experience of working on the administrative side of collegiate sports, she is intimately familiar with how both youth and professional athletics operate, and clearly intelligent enough to apply the lessons learned in those endeavors in her new role as AD.
Now, there very well might be former Buckeyes toiling away in various athletic departments around the country, but if we are going to welcome a former player to the position, it would need to be one with a certain amount of cache who can immediately command respect, but also be someone who those big-money donors will want to schmooze with.
Katie Smith checks all of those boxes. But more importantly, she would check a box that has never before been checked at Ohio State, that of finally having a female athletic director. From OSU’s first two ADs L.W. St. John and Rickard Larkins to their seventh and eighth — Andy Geiger and Gene Smith — there has never been a woman to occupy that office.
With Ohio State currently being led by its second female president, if and when Gene Smith decides to end his tenure atop OSU’s athletic department, I could think of few former Buckeyes who would be more suited to follow in his footsteps that the legendary Katie Smith.
Who has the right answer to today’s question:
This poll is closed
Jami: Aaron Craft
Matt: Katie Smith