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Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith uninterested in paying players

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

OSU vice president and athletic director Gene Smith in an interview with The Lantern Jan. 29.
Credit: Lantern file photo

While Gene Smith supports covering all college costs and promising four-year scholarships, he doesn’t think student-athletes should be paid.

“I am not a proponent of creating an employer-employee relationship, which changes the whole dynamic,” the Ohio State vice president and athletic director said in a July 7 interview with The Lantern. “At the end of the day, you get fired if you don’t perform if you’re an employee, and we don’t want that.”

Smith said he hopes the NCAA never makes it to the point of paying student-athletes beyond the cost of attendance, and added that if it did, it could lead to less lucrative sports being cut.

“I hope that we don’t get to that point,” he said. “If we do, then the men’s volleyball teams of the world, and the gymnastics teams, and all those teams — sayonara.”

But rather than a salary, Smith said he is strongly in favor of covering the cost of attendance beyond just tuition for student-athletes, something the Big Ten is pushing for as well.

He also said there are athletes who might not have saved up for college but who later find themselves in a position to attend school because of their athleticism.

“They may have aspired to just go work in the Ford plant, and all of a sudden they become this great athlete and they’re coming from families where the families didn’t develop a war chest to support them to go to school,” he said. “So those miscellaneous expenses aren’t paid for.”

Smith added the scholarship plan in place today is “old and inadequate” and needs to be changed.

In a June 24 press release, the Big Ten presidents and chancellors said they want to increase their efforts toward schools covering “the full cost of a college education, as defined by the federal government.”

Like Smith, the Big Ten statement acknowledged paying football and basketball players –– the sports that bring in by far the most money –– would hurt other, smaller programs.

The release also touched on an intent to guarantee four-year scholarships whether the player continues to compete throughout his or her time at the university. The same would still apply if the student-athlete chose to turn pro before completing their degree.

Smith said OSU already guarantees scholarships through degree completion. He added that it should be required across the board.

“What the Big Ten is talking about, and what’s being talked about nationally, is that should be mandated for all schools to do that,” he said.

Smith said he was at former OSU basketball player Mike Conley Jr.’s wedding recently when he started talking to Greg Oden, another former OSU basketball player who has moved into an NBA career, about what he plans to do next.

“He’s unsure, but there’s a possibility he might come back and even though he’s a multi-millionaire, we’ll probably end up paying for his degree,” Smith said.

While Smith and the Big Ten are pushing to cover the full cost of attendance and to guarantee scholarships, player compensation has been a hot debate around the entire NCAA recently after athletes at Northwestern University made attempts to unionize.

A National Labor Relations Board ruled in March that football players at the university can qualify as employees and can therefore unionize. The players haven’t taken any steps to do so yet, however, and Northwestern filed a brief with the NLRB earlier this month detailing its opposition to its players unionizing.


  1. Get rid of all college sports. This is a university, not a pro sports farm system. The only reason to be in college is to get an education. Everything else is unnecessary and ultimately, just makes college that much more expensive.

  2. no no no, you don’t know how it works. Rich alumni must be fed with team wins or the wallets close. And it’s easy for Gene Smith to be flip at the center of a sports franchise rolling in money…they only people not rolling are the people actually performing the central activity of that franchise. How much is he paid?

  3. I laughed when Jadaveon Clowney said if he was paid he could take care of his family. PULEEZE!!! It would never be enough because getting an education isn’t why “some” these kids go to college. I’m glad my former buckeye student athlete, who watches Suze Orman with me, understands that graduating with NO DEBT is fine with us!!!!! Those payments are going into an emergency fund!!! I agree don’t pay athletes but increase schollys to cover extra expenses…and NOT TATTOOS!!! hahahaha OMG Drake was GREAT as ESPYs host!

  4. There should be no pay to play other than the value of the scholarship; although, I agree that all the costs of attending school should be covered (from annual stipends to help cover food, clothing, and transportation costs) and a guaranteed four year scholarship offered. Also, medical coverage for sports related injuries should follow the athlete until the scholarship ends, or longer, if the athlete suffered a career ending injury.

    Once an athlete has decided to turn pro, or they are removed from the team due to violation of team rules from criminal activity, all scholarship contractual obligations of the university should be considered to be met.

  5. If this seems like overposting, I generally publish when I’ve been assaulted, or when my privacy is ignored, or when my cats cry out in pain by some action of government. I’ve been assaulted thousands of times over the past decade now, I’m sure that estimate is accurate….the other day one of my cats was bleeding, hair missing from its back, and two of them actually have scabs on their back as a result of being shot with energy weaponry. According to one report this results from my publication of Ronald Reagan quotes and biographical facts, indisputable and in fact from wikipedia. The federal government of course has all the power in the world to stop it. My tooth was knocked out in increments, over a 2 year span by energy weaponry assaults, for stating and proving the crimes committed by the federal government, absolute torture, like having a tooth drilled without novocaine for several hours.
    If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth, right? the Democrats’ great accomplishment is producing the political equivalent of a Rodney King video, clearly demonstrating the lies of the right, the right Hilary Clinton correctly identified as a vast conspiracy. Confirm by examining Central District of California Cases, 01-4340, 03-9097, 08-5515, 10-5193, US Tax Court 12000-07L –though I think you want to view my US Tax Court Appeal to the 9th Circuit for a good account of their day to day assaults, a few month time slice indicative of a decade of assault, and more recently 9th Circuit case 11-56043.

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