Gene Smith served on the College Football Playoff selection committee the past two years, but the Ohio State athletic director couldn’t advocate for the Buckeyes’ inclusion as one of the four teams to play for the national title.
The CFP’s recusal rules required him to leave the room when the Buckeyes were discussed. Whether that affected Ohio State’s chances to make the playoff is unknowable, but it won’t be an issue in the future. The CFP announced on Friday that Smith is stepping down from the selection committee. Iowa athletic director Gary Barta will replace him.
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Smith said the recusal issue was not the reason he decided to leave the committee. Instead, he believes it’s imperative that be more available to aid new coach Ryan Day in his first year after taking over for Urban Meyer.
“When you look at all the things that need to be done around football,” Smith told The Dispatch, “I just felt I need to be here for Ryan. I’m kind of a hands-on guy with everything we do, particularly football.”
Smith said he was comfortable with the recusal policy because of his five years on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament selection committee. But Smith was the only member of the CFP committee from the Big Ten.
As for speculation that Ohio State would be better served by having someone else from the conference on the committee, Smith said, “That is definitely a logical thought process, but that really didn’t play into my decision.”
His CFP responsibilities required him to fly to Dallas starting in October on either Sunday or Monday morning. Those are important days for Smith to be around the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
“Monday are the day players have off,” he said. “Coaches are in their office doing their work. Just having the ability to be around and be able to discuss issues that might be going on that week (is needed). I have no clue where I will be able to help, but my presence is important.
“It’s funny, Urban today was talking to me about it and said, ‘I missed you when you weren’t around’ when he was coaching.”
Meyer’s retirement and Day’s ascension were announced Dec. 4. Day took over the program after Ohio State’s Rose Bowl victory.
“He’s done marvelous,” Smith said. “I felt he hit the recruiting with the intensity that we had hoped, and that obviously started back in December. I think he did a marvelous job with the early signing, retaining the guys we needed to retain.
“Then he did an excellent job with his staffing. He thought long and hard about the changes he wanted to make and the profile of the guys he wanted to get, and he did that. Then he really hit it again recruiting. From January until last week, he was gone.”
And now, if Day needs him during football season, Smith won’t be.