Thursday morning, Smith got to show that class an up-close-and-personal view of the business of college sports, by, well, conducting it.
When the contract that Ohio State and Notre Dame had agreed upon to play a football series in 2022 and 2023 was finalized this morning, it needed Smith’s signature. At the time, Smith was in class, teaching his group of 66 students.
So, Smith told executive associate athletics director Martin Jarmond, who handles football scheduling, to make a trip over to the classroom.
“As you can imagine, when you’re trying to do something of this magnitude, you’re coordinating with Notre Dame, you’re trying to dot the i’s and cross the t’s,” Jarmond told BSB. “It’s a process. As soon as I got the contract, I said, ‘Gene, I know you’re in class, but we need to get this thing done. He said, ‘Come on over, it’ll be cool.’ ”
And so Jarmond entered class, where Smith and his students were expecting him. Smith sat down, checked the contract, signed the papers and it was soon reported publicly – the Fighting Irish would trip to Columbus in 2022 and head to South Bend in 2023.
“It was cool. It was one of those impromptu things,” Smith told BSB. “I always tell them that I’m going to somewhere throughout the course of the fall be able to share some things that other people don’t know or they’re going to hear about later. So actually, that morning, I shared with them before class started, ‘The next day or two, you’re going to hear something very exciting,’ and that happened.
“It was nice to be able to share it with them. They were all excited and happy. I was like, ‘You guys have to wait for the announcement to come out before you start tweeting it.’ ”
Parker Anderson, a member of the class, said it was a moment those in attendance will remember.
"We were all pretty shocked to say the least," he told BuckeyeSports.com in an email. "It was really cool to see that sort of final decision being made in class. Much of the class has goals of becoming an AD or working in collegiate athletics administration, so it’s cool to have somebody that has accomplished all those goals teaching our class. Gene does a great job teaching the class and helping everybody really understand the inside business of college sports."
Smith, a Notre Dame alumnus and former Fighting Irish football player, was of course excited to see the contract come together, as it will join home-and-home deals with Oklahoma (2016-17), TCU (2018-19), Oregon (2020-21), Texas (2022-23) and Boston College (2023-24) on the Buckeyes’ future schedules.
“We’ve tried off and on over the years, and they were going through the transition of trying to figure out what they were going to do with scheduling, so they held off for a while,” Smith said. “Then they signed a (five game per year) deal with the ACC and they needed to go through that transition, and now they have clarity on what that means for them.
“It worked out where Martin and (Notre Dame associate AD Chad Klunder) were able to find a deal that worked for both of us. I’m proud. It’s my alma mater, and I’m proud of being an alum from there. I am just excited to get it done. I wish it could have been for earlier years, but we’re in a pretty good place now for the future relative to having the major majors lined up with Oklahoma, Texas, Oregon, Notre Dame, TCU and Boston College. We’re going to hold for a while on that and just start building around those.”
The way the schedule stands, the Buckeyes will open with Boston College and Texas at home in 2023 before tripping to the Hoosier State to take on Notre Dame. That will be before a nine-game Big Ten schedule that will include five road games, leaving the Buckeyes with just six home games.
The administration has often said it needs seven home games to meet the budget, but Jarmond admitted that the school is open to the occasional year in which it might have only six. That nearly came to pass in 2017 before a scheduled series with North Carolina was recently canceled.
“We were able to work that out to where we’re going to get seven for that year, but when the Big Ten changed to nine games, we knew that would probably present a challenge one of these years with six games,” Jarmond said. “That’s just the reality of going from eight to nine, so we were trying to manage it and work through it, but there’s no question it’s a possibility that could we could have six, but we always like to have seven in the ‘Shoe.”
Jarmond added that his next goal is to finish the ’17 slate, which has one game still needed, and who knows. The next announcement might come in Smith’s class.
“I love it,” said Smith, who has been teaching the class since his days at Iowa State. “It’s a great time to stay connected to the students. We have them break up into teams and they do a class project at the end of the semester on different topics, and usually I invite my staff to come in and hear those presentations based upon topic. So if somebody does something based upon tickets, I’ll have (ticket director) Brett Scarbrough come in and he’ll listen to their presentation, and sometimes we learn some things.
“They’re smart. It’s half MBA students, half sports administration master’s students, so it is a really good mix and it’s fun.”