Skull Session: Gene Smith Says Michigan’s Sign-Stealing Scandal “Wasn’t Right,” Radio Hosts Create a Ryan Day Song and OSU Gives Marvin Harrison Jr. a Touching Send-Off

By Chase Brown on May 13, 2024 at 5:00 am
Gene Smith

Welcome to the Skull Session.

The aurora borealis?

In Ohio?

In this economy?!

All the pictures I've seen of the Northern Lights have been great, but this one takes the cake:

Have a good Monday.

 “BEAT THEM NEXT YEAR.” Last week, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith appeared on WOSU’s All Sides with Anna Stover. Among the topics discussed, Stover asked Smith to address Ohio State football’s three-game losing streak to Michigan and whether two of the Wolverines’ victories “deserve a little bit of an asterisk” since “it appears they were cheating.”

“Of course I do,” Smith replied.

He continued: “They benefited through that process they had in place, there’s no question. … Did it give them a touchdown or 14 points? I don’t know. I didn’t sit in those seats. But it wasn’t right.”

The process to which Smith refers was a sign-stealing operation former Michigan staffer Connor Stalions created. In this operation, Stalions or another Wolverines staffer would attend games of future opponents in person. Those individuals used cell phones to record play signals sent in from the sidelines as well as other in-game tactics. Both actions violated NCAA rules.

Soon after the NCAA launched its investigation at Michigan in October, Big Ten commissioner Tony Petitti and a board of conference representatives suspended former Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh for the Wolverines’ final three regular-season games, including The Game, as punishment for the program violating the conference’s sportsmanship policy. The NCAA’s investigation remains open, and the organization has yet to rule on Michigan’s alleged wrongdoing.

For those who think the NCAA will overturn the results of the 2021 and 2022 games between Ohio State and Michigan, Smith said, in short, don’t get your hopes up.

“Nobody’s going to retroactively for two years vacate their games,” he said.

The best result one can hope for is an asterisk, Smith said. 

Still, Smith wondered, what good would that do at this stage? In an answer to his own question, Smith said the best advice he can offer himself, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day, Ohio State football players and Buckeye Nation is to “let it go.”

“I’ve got scars all my life in this business,” Smith said. “If I just wallow in those scars, I can’t move forward. You have to look at history. You have to respect the total sum of our experiences in life. But for you to be where you need to be, you’ve just got to swallow it. … Even if they went back in and said there’s an asterisk around those games or they’re going to vacate those games, it ain’t going to heal the scar.”

How can the scars begin to heal?

“Beat them next year,” Smith said.

Ohio State hosts Michigan in Columbus on Nov. 30…

… 201 days.

 THE RYAN DAY SONG. I have more Gene Smith-related news to share in this Skull Session, and I had full intention of making a natural transition to it between the first and second sections. However, sometime Sunday afternoon, I stumbled across a song (which 97.1 The Fan radio hosts Common Man and T-Bone created) that involves Ohio State, Michigan and Ryan Day, so I feel the need to address that now, and we’ll get back around to Smith later.



Listen to this.

Why is the song kind of… good?

*sings quietly* ... follow through, get a clue, oh cliché, Ryan Day ... *sings quietly*

 GOOD GUY GENE. Back to our regularly scheduled program.

The Ohio State athletic department honored Gene Smith last week at the 2024 Excellence Awards. The department also created a website for Smith, celebrating his career and achievements. Part of that celebration included testimonials from Ohio State coaches, athletes, legends and more. I included some of them below to give a glimpse at the impact Smith made in his 19 years as the school’s athletic director.


Bill Mosiello, baseball head coach


What you have done for this University and College Athletics is second to none. You are a TRUE LEGEND in your field. Thank you for the TREMENDOUS opportunity you have given me and my FAMILY.

Lisa Strom, women’s golf head coach


Your leadership has been tremendous throughout your time at Ohio State.  You're leaving things better than you found it.  You have always had a heart to serve the student-athletes and that's what we are all called to do.  Thank you for being a sounding board, a gentle nudge to be better, and to always have our best interests in mind.

You'll be missed!  But we'll come find you and play some golf soon!

Go Bucks!

Holly Vargo Brown, synchronized swimming head coach


I first met you on one of the darkest days in our team's history (the unexpected passing of team member, Jessica Beck).  I knew instantly that you were a leader of integrity, compassion and support.  I have been so very fortunate to be guided by your leadership since then, as you taught me how important it is to "meet people where they are."

Thank you for all you have done for me, Ohio State and our synchronized swimming family. 

Go Bucks, Always.


Adelaide Aquilla, track and field

Hi Gene! I just wanted to take a second to thank you for your time and dedication to THE best university and the student-athletes that attend it. You have led by example and shown many what a true leader looks like. You have helped so many secure internships, attended countless sporting events, and offered up countless words of encouragement. All of this does not go unnoticed. Thank you for your guidance and inspiration. Enjoy your retirement, once a Buckeye always a Buckeye!

Sarah Sue Morbitzer, women’s volleyball

Thank you, Gene! You are the true definition of a Buckeye and I am so grateful to have had a leader like you to always support and guide us! I will never forget when you stopped to get to know Londot, Rader and me as we were wandering in the parking lot after workouts four years ago. You may not remember that, but the small gestures over the years have created big memories! Thank you and enjoy the time with your family!

Leah Sax, women’s lacrosse

Mr. Gene Smith -

We thank you so much for your daily devotion to every single student-athlete. We are beyond grateful for the energy and effort you brought to our athletic department in helping us grow into stronger athletes, students, and most importantly, people. You have given us a great example of leadership that we aim to emulate throughout our team. You will be missed, Mr. Smith! Thank you for everything!

Go Bucks!


Jerry Lucas, former Ohio State basketball player

Thank you so very much for your great contributions to our great University. What you have done will never be forgotten.

“Dr. Memory”

Randy Gradishar, former Ohio State football player


Thank YOU for everything you are and gave to BUCKEYE NATION! You'll be missed, but your lasting legacy will impact thousands!

Gene, I'd like to invite you and all proud Buckeyes to join me in Canton on 8/3/24 at noon for my Pro Football HOF enshrinement.  I would not have made it this far without OSU's best-ever athletic department; that's the truth!

The Rest

Greg Sankey, SEC commissioner

It has been my great honor to know Gene and work alongside him on several boards and committees during his remarkable career.  When Gene spoke, it was important to listen and I have learned a great deal from Gene as I observed him throughout his career as an impactful leader at the campus, conference, and national levels.  Perhaps his greatest legacy is his continuing care and support for young people and the opportunities for learning and growth he has provided thousands of student-athletes during his career.

Martin Jarmond, UCLA athletic director

There’s no one to do it better than you Gene. Humility, empathy and passion are just a few of the traits I have always admired and tried to emulate. No quote will encapsulate what you have meant to my career, my life. You’re an amazing father and that is what I’ve learned the most. You did it brother. Your legacy will live on. I love you!

Heather Lyke, Pitt athletic director


You are a legend, icon and role model.   Working for you taught me the importance of emotional intelligence and that everyone in your organization matters.  You made everyone around you better.  But most importantly, you made the profession of intercollegiate athletics better.  The impact of your leadership spanned decades and touched thousands of student-athletes.   

I’ll never forget when I went to Eastern Michigan University as the Director of Athletics in 2013 and you sent me all the pins you had collected from your time there.  One of the pins was from the 1987 California Bowl which was the last bowl game they played in.  I showed the football team that California Bowl pin and told them we need to get the University back to a bowl game.  Four seasons later, we went to the 2016 Bahamas Bowl and I will always cherish the inspiration you provided whether you knew it or not.  The ways you helped others, including me, are countless.   And the ways you shaped and influenced our industry are immeasurable.  Relationships in our profession truly matter, and you set the standard for connecting to and mentoring others unselfishly.   

You are a true leader and inspiration.  All the best to you, Sheila and your entire family for memorable moments together in retirement!

Look at Gene Smith, man. So inspirational.

Truly, Smith has been an inspiration to many over the years, and I wish him the best in his retirement.

 MARVELOUS MARV. Across three years in Columbus, former Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. made an incredible impact on the program. A two-time unanimous All-American, Biletnikoff Award winner and Heisman finalist, the 6-foot-3, 209-pound pass-catcher has elevated himself to GOAT status in the Buckeyes' receiver room – yes, even above David Boston, Cris Carter, Chris Olave and Terry Glenn.

Now that Harrison has left Columbus for Scottsdale, Arizona, Ohio State gave him a touching send-off with an all-access look at his time with the Buckeyes. I highly recommend you take some time to watch it.


 SONG OF THE DAY. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” - Pomplamoose (Cover of Tears for Fears)

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