Gene Smith Doesn’t Think Scandal Should Cost Him Job
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gene Smith says he did not want to part ways with Jim Tressel, but now that he has, Ohio State’s Athletic Director is trying to put as much distance as possible between himself and the school’s former head coach.
Appearing on Sirius/XM 91 College Sports with Jack Arute and Mike Leach Tuesday, Smith was clear in his backing of Ohio State’s response to the NCAA Notice of Allegations.
“I was really shocked that Jim did not come to me with the emails that he received,” Smith told Arute and Leach.
“He made an individual judgment call and that was a mistake. I always tell people in our athletic department to never stand alone. So, I was shocked by that.”
Initially, Smith said he intended to stand behind Tressel after news surfaced that the school’s coach had known about Terrelle Pryor and DeVier Posey’s involvement with potential NCAA violations as far back as last April.
Both Smith and OSU President E. Gordon Gee stood behind Tressel during their March press conference, but the pressure to let him go became too great as more and more allegations began to surface this off-season.
“It was difficult for me to ask for his resignation. We started the process with the hopes he would continue as our coach, but the situation deteriorated and was hurting our institution,” Smith said during the radio interview.
“It was hard for me. I have a great deal of respect for what coaches do for kids because of my background, so it was emotionally hard for me.”
When the news first surfaced on May 30 that Tressel had resigned his position as head coach, it was assumed Ohio State pressured him into stepping down because it would help the university’s case with the NCAA.
President Gee denied that the university had pushed Tressel out the door, but the school’s response to the NCAA Notice of Allegations told a much different story.
“I’m confused by that because I hadn’t made any public statements about Jim’s transition,” Smith said.
“Other people in our institution have made statements and I know I have to accept what others at our institute are saying. But (Friday) was the first time I actually said what I did. I never try and deal with the diversity of thought and the diversity of opinion. I just tell it like it is.”
Gee saying one thing while Smith says another has become all too common during the course of the last six months. The fact Ohio State is openly campaigning for leniency based on the fact they “sought” and received Tressel’s resignation is a far cry from what Smith and Gee had to say back in March.
“The institution did not do as good of a job – and that includes me – with its public communication. And it starts with that press conference in March,” Smith said Tuesday.
“So, I know we sent some mixed messages, but I accept in this business that you can’t address all opinions that come up because of your actions.”
With Tressel gone, Smith has now become the central figure in the Ohio State scandal, but the 55-year old does not believe his actions warrant that a similar fate as the man who, as of now, stands to take the fall.
“No, because I never did anything incorrect or wrong, in terms of the duties or responsibilities that I’m supposed to perform,” said Smith, who was hired to replace Andy Geiger in 2005.
“So, I’ve never had those thoughts. Not at all.”
Later in the interview he was pressed on his reaction to people who are calling for his job.
“That’s definitely a thought that some people would have in this situation and I respect that. But from a performance point-of view, I‘ve done nothing wrong,” he restated.
“We basically had a small group make individual decisions that they are paying for. But I wake up every day knowing that I did the right thing in relation to my job.”
Smith said that Ohio State has worked closely with the NCAA on this issue and he believes the proposed 2-year probation and vacation of last season’s games will be punishment enough to fit the crime. University officials, including Smith, will meet with the NCAA Committee on Infractions on Aug. 12 with finally ruling likely to follow by the middle of the season.
“If we’re fortunate and the only issues that we’re dealing with are the ones from last week, it usually takes 6-8 weeks to agree or add additional penalties,” he said.
“If nothing else pops ups, then I think that’s our timeline. We’ll have the hearing Aug. 12, then 6-8 weeks from there we’ll have our response.”
Until then, Ohio State fans will be holding their breath. When it comes to his job, Smith might be doing the same.
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