Home » Campus » Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith could earn nearly $1.5M yearly with bonuses

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith could earn nearly $1.5M yearly with bonuses

Newly promoted vice president and current athletic director of OSU Gene Smith in an interview with The Lantern Jan. 29. Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

Newly promoted vice president and current athletic director of OSU Gene Smith in an interview with The Lantern Jan. 29.
Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

Regardless of the sport, individual or team, if Ohio State wins a national championship, Gene Smith gets some additional coins in his pocket.

The newly announced vice president and current athletic director’s new contract — which is set to expire June 30, 2020 — could see him earn nearly $1.5 million per year with additional bonuses, according to a copy of Smith’s contract obtained by The Lantern. His previous contract rewarded him with a base salary of about $840,484, according to the Columbus Business First DataCenter.

In an interview with The Lantern Jan. 29, Smith said he expected the increase in base salary, but did not know what the exact figures would be.

“There was a conversation about where I fall nationally with other athletic directors and that’s the great place about here, they compensate you consistent with expectations, consistent with the market and that’s one of the beauties of Ohio State,” Smith said. “So I expected something but didn’t know what it ultimately would be until (OSU Interim President) Joe (Alutto) told me.”

In comparison, recently appointed university president Dr. Michael Drake is set to make a base salary of $800,000, with deferred compensation of $200,000 and eligibility for a performance award of up to 25 percent of his base compensation each year, plus other perks.

Both Drake and Smith might be well-compensated compared with their peers, but neither comes close to matching the salary of OSU football coach Urban Meyer, who earned $4.16 million in 2013.

Smith is set to make a base salary of $940,484, but is eligible for up to $550,000 in bonuses based on various athletic and business advancement achievements.

For one, he receives a bonus if an OSU athlete wins an individual national title. The bonus is described as “one week base salary for each NCAA National Championship achieved by an individual sport participant,” which works out to more than $18,000. There is a cap placed on these achievements, and Smith’s supplemental compensations cannot exceed $120,000. The sports that stipulation applies to include wrestling, cross country, track, diving, swimming, fencing, golf, gymnastics, synchronized swimming, tennis and the co-ed sports of rifle and pistol.

But the additional compensation doesn’t stop there, as Smith’s contract lines him up for a four-week base salary bonus (more than $72,000) for numerous athletic achievements. Among these include: a top ranking in the Sears Director’s Cup final ranking, the Buckeye football team competing in any BCS Bowl Game (or similar Division I bowl game of similar magnitude if the BCS ceases to exist), the OSU men’s and women’s basketball teams making a Final Four appearance and if the football team finishes a school year with a cumulative grade point average of 3.3.

A cap is in place on some of these additional compensations as well, such as the requirement that “Exceptional Athletic Achievements” bonuses cannot exceed $120,000.

Smith is not the highest paid athletic director in the Big Ten, however. That title belongs to Wisconsin’s Barry Alvarez, who made a base salary of about $1.14 million in 2013, with potential bonuses giving him a maximum figure of $1.23 million, according to the 2013 USA TODAY athletic directors’ salaries database.

Comparably, Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon made a base salary of $900,000 with potential bonuses of $200,000 in 2013, according to the database.

Vanderbilt’s David Williams was the country’s highest paid athletic director last year, earning nearly $3.24 million, according to the database. Williams also serves as vice chancellor of university affairs, is a law professor and has served as university general counsel at Vanderbilt.

Undergraduate Student Government President Taylor Stepp, a fourth-year in public affairs, said Smith deserves his level of compensation because of his work with university athletics.

“Frankly we just have to pay him top dollar, because that’s what we’re paying for, we’re paying for excellence and that’s what Gene Smith is bringing to the table for us,” Stepp said.

OSU’s two major revenue athletic programs serve Smith with the largest additional stipends.

On top of the additional payout for earning a trip to a BCS game or a Final Four, Smith is set to receive another two weeks’ base salary (more than $36,000) if either the men’s basketball team or football team brings home the national championship. If either team finishes a year with a GPA above 3.5, Smith earns another five weeks’ base salary (more than $90,000).

Additionally, if the cumulative GPA for every other OSU team — aside from football and men’s basketball — achieves an average GPA of 3.5 or greater, Smith earns another five weeks’ base salary. The additional compensation for all “Exceptional Academic Achievements” cannot exceed $60,000, according to the contract.

For any team that is awarded the title of Big Ten Conference Champions, Co-Champions or Tournament Champions, Smith is slated to receive an additional two weeks’ salary. The extra compensation for this part of his contract also has a cap, as it can’t exceed a maximum of $120,000 in any one contract year.

On top of all the additional athletic compensation, OSU is slated to pay Smith another $200,000 for his “leadership and representation in media promotions and public relations.”

If Smith remains employed as the vice president and athletic director at OSU until June 30, 2020, he will receive what the contract calls a “2020 Longevity Bonus” of annual payments of more than $60,000 a year.

Smith also receives a stipend of $1,200 per month toward two automobiles, and the school is set to pay for his wife to attend away athletic contests, provided the travel costs do not exceed $5,000 in any contract year.

While serving as athletic director, Smith is given a full membership to a local country club, and full membership at the University Faculty Club. He is also set to fly by private aircraft for “business purposes only,” up to 15 hours per contract year.


  1. Ridiculous to pay him this kind of money

    Ridiculous to pay him this kind of money

  2. This guy is a joke!

  3. In reality he is getting paid more than the President? That’s makes absolutely NO sense.

  4. Reminds me of the Cleveland Browns organization. Paying management WAY MORE than they deserve because they’re part of the “boys club”. That’s all this is. He doesn’t deserve this much money.

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