New Ohio State President Ted Carter Views Big Ten Expansion As “Really Exciting,” Says He’ll Work with Gene Smith to Identify New Athletic Director

By Dan Hope on August 23, 2023 at 7:30 am
Ted Carter
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch/USA TODAY Network

Ohio State’s new president foreshadowed the latest round of Big Ten expansion months before it happened.

In an interview with Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald in May, Ted Carter predicted that “over the next year, there’s going to be a lot of big changes that are going to happen.” Specifically, Carter forecasted “two teams that move from one of the Power Five conferences that cause things to unravel,” specifically noting the possibility of teams leaving the ACC or Pac-12 and creating “a domino effect.”

That domino effect happened over the course of less than two weeks in July and August, when Colorado’s move from the Pac-12 to the Big 12 sparked a mass exodus from the Pac-12 that led Oregon and Washington to the Big Ten and Arizona, Arizona State and Utah to also join the Big 12. Some believe it’s only a matter of time before the same domino effect happens with the ACC, given that Florida State has publicly expressed a desire to leave the ACC and numerous other schools in the conference have also explored their options.

During his introductory press conference Tuesday, Carter declined to make any more predictions when asked if he thought the Big Ten would continue to expand in the future.

“I can't know that. Nobody can,” Carter said, “We’re in an interesting space. Going back to that article you're referring, what I was really talking about was should one team move, there might be a little bit of an unraveling, which is kind of what happened. I mean, it was sort of predictable. I didn't have any inside knowledge.”

Carter did say, though, that he is excited about the Big Ten’s impending additions of Oregon, Washington, UCLA and USC in 2024. He played a part in adding those schools to the conference in his current role as the president at the University of Nebraska, but will now be leading a different Big Ten institution by the time those schools join the conference next summer.

Although Carter shares the concerns many have about the impact the additional travel will have on Olympic sports programs, he believes the additions will benefit the Big Ten as a whole, particularly in football.

“Bringing in four Pac-12 teams in the Big Ten, what an opportunity for all of our sports to get exposure across four time zones, to increase our recruiting capabilities,” Carter said. “It's going to be difficult for some of our Olympic sports. I think the scheduling there is going to have to really be thought through. But in terms of what it will mean for Big Ten football, I think it's a really exciting time.”

While Ohio State now knows who will be leading the university when the Big Ten expands next year, it’s still unknown who will be leading the athletic department at that time, as Gene Smith announced earlier this month he will retire as Ohio State’s athletic director next summer.

Carter made it clear he does not view the task of finding a new athletic director as replacing Smith, recognizing the legacy Smith has built through nearly two decades leading Ohio State’s athletic department. But he said he is looking forward to working alongside Smith in his first six months as OSU’s president to identify who will succeed Smith following the end of his tenure in June.

“There really isn't anybody that's going to replace Gene Smith. He is arguably the most prestigious, best-known, most accomplished athletic director in the country. So let's just be clear, there is no replacing a legend like Gene Smith,” Carter said. “That said, I'm looking forward to working with him. We'll have six months to work on it together. I’m excited about the opportunity to build that new team of leadership and arguably the greatest Division I sports program of any college campus in the country.”

Carter is no stranger to hiring athletic directors, as he did so at both Nebraska’s main campus in Lincoln and its Omaha campus while leading the University of Nebraska System. He was involved in Nebraska’s decisions to fire Scott Frost and hire Matt Rhule as the new head coach of its football program last November.

“I've been in the talent management space for a long time,” Carter said.

That said, it’s unlikely Ohio State’s new athletic director will come with Carter from Nebraska, considering the athletic director he hired in Lincoln – Trev Alberts – is a former Nebraska football player himself.

A more likely outcome, especially considering that Carter plans to include Smith in the hiring process, is that Ohio State will hire an athletic director who has ties to Smith and OSU. Smith told Eleven Warriors after announcing his retirement that he would not try to steer the new president into hiring a specific candidate unless he was asked for his opinion, but that he would look to connect with the new president as quickly as possible to offer recommendations.

“It depends on the person and how my connection with them occurs,” Smith said. “It would be easy to talk about the characteristics, but I'm not going to strap them with the burden of a name unless they ask me or provide me that opportunity. They need to make their own decision.”

A source close to the athletic department told Eleven Warriors earlier this month that Washington State athletic director Pat Chun is the frontrunner to succeed Smith.

Carter spoke about the search for a new athletic director and Big Ten expansion among a wide variety of other topics related to Ohio State during his introductory press conference at OSU on Tuesday, and you can hear everything he had to say in the video below.

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