News broke on Wednesday night that the Pac-12 and Commissioner Larry Scott were parting ways, effective in June. Scott has one year remaining on his contract, but felt that this was the right time to move on because of the impending media rights negotiations for their league. He feels that the commissioner who takes over should have the ability to partake in the negotiation process.
So who will take over as the new Pac-12 commissioner? One name that has come up twice from reputable national media members is Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith.
It's an awfully interesting proposition. Would Gene Smith want to leave Ohio State to take on a role like this? Only he knows the answer to that, but I think he would be a terrific selection for the job if he were ultimately interested.
Smith has been the athletic director at Ohio State since March 2005 and has been instrumental in managing perhaps the toughest job in America. The Buckeyes are constantly under the spotlight, especially the football and men's basketball teams. They have 37 varsity sports (more than any other school in America). Smith has been one of the most involved athletic directors in the country at the macro-level, sitting on NCAA committees and he's been deeply involved with the College Football Playoff.
Smith has served on the NCAA Management Council, the NCAA committee on Infractions, the Rose Bowl Management Committee, and the NCAA Football Rules Committee. He was named to the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Committee in 2006 and became the chair of that committee in 2010.
Most recently, Smith was at the forefront of helping lead the Buckeyes and the Big Ten back onto the football field while navigating the CoVID-19 pandemic.
The Pac-12 indicated to Pete Thamel (above Tweet) that they need someone who already understands the collegiate landscape. Smith is as recognizable, experienced and well-respected as any athletic director in America. He is also quite familiar with the league, after spending five years at Arizona State before taking the job in Columbus in 2005. Former Ohio State president Michael Drake is also out west now overseeing the Cal university system, and Drake could be influential in helping Smith landing the job.
I asked Urban Meyer last week at the CFP National Championship game why Ohio State has been able to navigate playing through the pandemic as successfully as they have, and as he's gone on record saying several times, Meyer immediately pointed to Gene Smith's leadership. He called Smith the best AD in America and said he is profoundly responsible for Ohio State's overall health as an athletic department.
I'm not sure if Smith is looking for an exit from Ohio State, but he's certainly earned the right to be picky about what he would do next in his career - especially considering he is likely on the tail end of his career. If he were interested in moving west and taking on a role of this magnitude, I think he'd do a fabulous job. The Pac-12 needs respected, veteran leadership and Smith is perfect for that job.
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