Gene Smith made an unexpected announcement on Wednesday.
In a press conference at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, the 67-year-old Smith announced he will retire from his position as Ohio State's athletic director on June 30, 2024. Smith later revealed the search for his successor will start after the university hires its next president.
"I want to thank the leadership of The Ohio State University during my tenure for providing me the opportunity to serve as Senior Vice President and Wolfe Foundation Endowed Athletic Director for the past 18 years," Smith said in a statement from Ohio State. "The presidents and many members of the Board of Trustees I have served afforded me the professional opportunity of a lifetime, and I am forever grateful.
"I have always believed that a leader seeks to be the right person at the right time in the life of the institution. I believe that July 2024 is the right time to welcome new leadership to build upon what we have achieved and continue to build upon the great tradition of excellence in athletics and business advancement at Ohio State.
"Sheila and I look forward to the next chapter when we plan to spend more consistent quality time with our children, grandchildren, and extended family. I want to thank the current Board of Trustees members for allowing me to make this announcement at this time, affording me the opportunity to work with colleagues on the president's cabinet to ensure a smooth and successful transition once a new president is appointed."
Gene Smith, Athletic Director at The Ohio State University, will retire in July 2024. Thank you for all you've done— Ohio State Buckeyes (@OhioStAthletics) August 9, 2023
Smith has spent the past 18 years at Ohio State leading one of the largest and most successful and outstanding athletic programs in the country. pic.twitter.com/g5sLxrDxlc
Smith started as Ohio State's athletic director in 2005 and will enter his 19th year in the role in 2023-24. He is the third-longest tenured athletic director in school history behind Lynn W. St. John (1912-47) and Richard Larkins (1947-70). Before Smith's time in Columbus, he was an athletic director at Eastern Michigan (1985-93), Iowa State (1993-2000) and Arizona State (2000-05).
In his 18 years, Ohio State's sports have had tremendous success on the field and in the classroom. From an athletic perspective, the Buckeyes have won 115 team and 369 individual conference championships, as well as 32 team and 117 individual national titles. In academics, Ohio State has increased its Academic Performance Rate annually as its athletes have collected numerous Academic All-Big Ten and Academic All-American awards between 2005-23.
Smith acknowledged that success in his opening statement on Wednesday. He also thanked Ohio State fans for their continual support of the Buckeyes, the coaches and support staff that run Ohio State's sports programs, university donors, the media and, most importantly, his family.
"At Ohio State, we are truly blessed with the best damn fans in the land, and I want to thank Buckeye Nation for its support," Smith said. "Along with Buckeye Nation, I want to thank the leadership of our business community for its support. I am immensely grateful to the network of business leaders who have invested in me and in our success. I want to thank members of the media. I understand and respect the job you have to do.
"Likewise, I wish to thank the many donors with whom I have had the pleasure of experiences and making special memories. The generosity of Buckeye Nation has been remarkable. I also want to thank the coaches and support staff with whom I've been blessed to work. I have been fortunate to work with some of the best in the business, and I am aware that I stood on their shoulders as we strived to make our department the finest athletic department in the nation. It has been my pleasure and my honor to work with my colleagues in the department of athletics to create an environment conducive to educating, enriching and supporting the best and brightest student-athletes in the country. There is no question that the student-athletes that I have had the good fortune to serve during my tenure as athletic director were the inspiration each and every day for us all.
"I want to thank my four children and eight grandchildren for embracing the Buckeye experience and participating whenever they can. Most importantly, I want to thank my wife Sheila for being so supportive of my career in athletic administration. She has served as my friend, colleague, and emotional support through good times and bad and I am grateful for her unwavering love and support."