Smith: Bonuses Likely To Be Taken Off Books

News of Ohio State's national championships in 2014 always seemed to invoke the name Gene Smith, but not for anything he had done for those victorious athletes. Smith was blasted by many for incentives in his contract achieved by the triumphs, and the OSU AD says that will be under review going forward.

This March, Logan Stieber won the NCAA championship in wrestling for the third consecutive season. Two months later, the Ohio State rowing team won its second straight NCAA crown as well.

When they happened, though, much of the conversation surrounding each victory had to do with Ohio State director of athletics Gene Smith.

Smith's extended contract, signed in January, allowed him to collect a bonus for each individual or team national championship won in certain sports, up to a certain point.

And considering the hot-button issues facing college sports, including the firestorm over how and whether athletes should be compensated, it's no wonder that Smith's bonus made news.

Now with the athletics season behind him, Smith said he will look into changing that part of his contract once incoming president Michael Drake – who starts at OSU at the beginning of July – gets settled at Ohio State.

"I've had some preliminary conversation with our general counsel on campus, and we'll eventually probably change that," Smith said.

Bonuses for athletics directors are common across college athletics, and Smith's contract is no different. His previous OSU deal, signed when he was hired from Arizona State in 2005, had similar provisions, and his current contract provides him with extra compensation for "Exceptional Athletic Achievements," "Exceptional Academic Achievements," "Exceptional Achievements In Business Advancement" and longevity bonuses.

"It needs to be changed and so we'll end up changing that." - Gene Smith

As such, Smith was slightly taken aback by the visceral reaction the story caused.

"It's been so old, I wasn't as sensitized," he said. "I had it at Iowa State, which was, I don't know, how many years ago? I had it at Arizona State. If you made a public records request for some of the top ADs across the country, you would probably find the same thing. It needs to be changed and so we'll end up changing that. The optics don't look right, so we'll change it."

Per the terms of his current seal, Smith can receive up to $240,000 per year in bonuses related to Ohio State's on-field achievements – a cap of $120,000 on accomplishments including where the school places in the Director's Cup standings, how the football and basketball teams perform, national championships for teams or individuals in other sports; and $120,000 related to Big Ten championships won by the school.

For example, this year, Smith received four weeks of base salary – just over $18,000 per week, or just over $72,000 total – for the football team's appearance in a BCS bowl. He also added one week's salary for Stieber's national crown, something that didn't seem to irk wrestling coach Tom Ryan at the time.

"The deal was if you run a program of excellence, if you create extraordinary opportunities for young people, you're going to get rewarded for it, and he's done that," Ryan said. ""He's done that for me. He did not have to put a new wrestling complex on the master plan. He did not have to do that, and he did it. He did not have to do a lot of the things that he's done since I've been here. He did not have to increase some salaries so that I could put a great staff together. He did not have to warmly welcome the opportunity for the Olympic training center to be here. He did not have to do any of those things.

"The reality is that Logan is the recipient of an amazing place with amazing people, and I'm not saying he wouldn't have done it in a remote place in the middle of nowhere with a small wrestling program, but you hear Logan speak – he says it over and over again, and it's not lip service – his workout partners and the staff and his environment are critical to his success, and Gene provides it. At least that's my feeling."

And it looks like in the future, Smith – whose base salary checks out at just below $1 million – will be doing so without extra incentives on the table.

"I don't know when it started – probably in the '80s is when these models came into place," Smith said. "Nobody has changed it, so I guess I'll be one of the few."

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