Smith Tackles Wide Range Of Topics

Prior to Thursday's OSU media day, athletic director Gene Smith met with reporters to discuss a wide range of topics. Smith discussed OSU's scheduled open night practice on Aug. 21 as well as future schedules and the contract status of men's basketball coach Thad Matta. Click this link for more.

While media members were waiting to take snapshots and get interviews with members of the 2006 Ohio State football team on Thursday, a horde of reporters surrounded OSU athletic director Gene Smith shortly before the 2006 media day at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

Smith spent nearly 15 minutes addressing the media Thursday afternoon on a variety of topics which included the release of the future schedule, the night practice coming up next Monday evening and Thad Matta's contract among other topics.

"This is now a fundraiser," Smith joked when realizing how many reporters joined in the interview. "We've got a critical mass here."

Although a majority of the topics Smith touched on Thursday were football related, in the wake of a contract extension and raise given to OSU football coach Jim Tressel, many have left wondered if a similar renegotiation will be given to basketball coach Thad Matta.

Smith was asked if a raise and/or contract extension was being discussed.

"We will address Thad Matta and anyone else in the October timeframe," he explained, "which is the normal part of our raise process."

However, Smith added that Matta's current contract – which runs through June 2012, would not be changed or extended at this time beyond the possibility of discussing the raise.

"Relative to a contract, we won't be making any modifications to a contract," he added.

If Matta is not given a raise before May 2007, his contract provides additional raise considerations. If Ohio State finishes in the top 16 of the final Associated Press or EUSA Today coaches polls or is placed as a No. 4-seed or higher in the NCAA Tournament in the 2006-07 basketball season, he may request a re-evaluation of his contract.

Information can be compiled on the 16 highest paid basketball coaches in the country, and should Matta's compensation plan fall below the average of the second and third quartiles of that group, he and Ohio State may automatically negotiate in good faith a deal that puts him in at least the upper half of that group – essentially making him one of the top eight to 10 highest-paid coaches in the country at bare minimum.

As far as football, the most recent topic of discussion regarding the Ohio State athletic department is the implementation of an open night practice on Mon., Aug. 21, at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.

"That will be cool," Smith said of the idea. "It's a great opportunity for those that may not be able to get into a game during the regular season to come and see the Buckeyes in a pretty intense scrimmage under the lights."

He explained some of what will come with the practice, which should last for approximately two hours.

"We'll have full-blown concessions and parking for people so they can have a good time," Smith noted. "We'll also have autograph sessions."

The practice will begin at 8 p.m. preceded by the autograph session from 7-8 p.m. The admission for entrance into the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium is free, although there will be a charge for parking.

In addition to practice accommodations, Ohio State has also been busy filling the future football schedules.

Ohio State recently released the full schedule through the 2010 season in addition to several other high-profile games beyond 2010 up until the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

"We need to find one more game for 2010," Smith said. "We're out there trying to lock some teams up for 2010."

The 2007 season includes home games against Ohio programs Youngstown State, Kent State and Akron and a road game against Washington. In 2008, the Buckeyes entertain Troy, Ohio University and Youngstown State again as well as a road game against USC.

The 2009 slate includes a return home game with USC, games against Army and New Mexico State as well as Toledo in Cleveland. Lastly, 2010 includes games against Marshall and Miami (Fla.) at home and a game at Army or against Army in the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J.

Ohio State also announced a series with Oklahoma beginning in 2016.

"We still have a few details to work out, including where the first game will be, but we have an agreement in principle," Steve Snapp, associate director of athletics said in a press release earlier in the week. "We want to play a marquee game every year, either home or away, and Oklahoma certainly fits into that category. Our hope down the road is to continue to add high profile games and to be able to play at sites where we have not traditionally played."

Preceding the series with Oklahoma are games against Miami (2010-2011), California (2012-2013) and Virginia Tech (2014-2015).

Smith mentioned the legwork being done behind the remaining games Ohio State is working to announce in the future.

He was asked if Youngstown State needed much legwork.

"No, let's get serious," Smith answered while laughing.

However, many of the games were challenging to get done.

"New Mexico State and Army was really difficult," he added. "Army – we really wanted Army. We thought it was interesting. We haven't determined if it's going to be in the Meadowlands – one of the reasons is because the Giants and Jets are trying to build a stadium there. Also the timing of that, how that works, and I told Kevin Anderson and Jim (Tressel) that I wouldn't mind playing at West Point."

Size was one of the only issues with a possible game against Army in West Point instead of the Meadowlands.

"If we can get some tickets – that will be a challenge," he explained.

Beyond the normal controversy that was dealt with in the interview, such as topics like Maurice Clarett, Smith also talked about the recent court decision to award Jim O'Brien a $2.2 million dollar judgment against the university.

Smith said they university was prepared for such a decision by Ohio Court of Claims Judge Joseph T. Clark, in the event it went against them.

He talked about where the money would come from.

"We're going to move the media seats and charge the media," Smith joked.

"We anticipated that if we had to pay something, we would do it out of our reserves," Smith explained in full detail of where the money would come from. "We had built up our reserves pretty good – we're a little soft of $7 million in our reserves. That's where we've been paying our legal bills mostly.

"We weren't paying it out of our operational budget," he further elaborated.

Smith said, in an answer to a question regarding an appeal that the decision would be made by members of the university and they have not determined if they would appeal the ruling.

Before Smith was given an opportunity to answer other questions that certainly might have arose – such as the seating arrangement at basketball games in the Schottenstein Center he was scurried away by university officials for other obligations.

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