Ohio State AD Gene Smith calls reported Pac-12 commissioner candidacy 'pure speculation'

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith has been mentioned in reports as a possible candidate to replace outgoing Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said on Friday that news reports mentioning him as a possible leading candidate to become the Pac-12’s next commissioner were "pure speculation."

“Honored to be mentioned,” Smith wrote in a text message to The Dispatch, “but I have not been contacted by anyone.”

The search for a new commissioner for the league began this week after it mutually agreed to part ways with Larry Scott, who had been the top executive for 11 years.

Scott will remain with the conference through June 30 and assist with the transition.

Much of his tenure had been plagued by the Pac-12’s inability to generate revenue at the same pace as other Power Five Conferences, prompting its CEO group to terminate his contract a year early.

The reported candidate pool involves sitting athletic directors, conference administrators and TV executives.

Before arriving at Ohio State in 2005, Smith was the athletic director at Arizona State, one of the conference's 12 schools. In his current role, he runs one of the largest revenue-generating athletic departments in the country.

Smith, 65, had been previously mentioned as a possible successor to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, who retired in 2019 after three decades leading the league.

At the time Delany announced his retirement in March 2019, Smith said he was happy to be at Ohio State and said he had “things that I want to get done.”

The Big Ten ultimately tapped Kevin Warren as its next commissioner, and he began his tenure last year.

Earlier Friday, OSU football coach Ryan Day told reporters that he had not had conversations with Smith about the Pac-12 opening.

“I haven't talked to him about any of that stuff,” Day said, “but if anything like that ever happened, certainly that would not be good.”

Day, who succeeded Urban Meyer in 2019, said Smith has been “unbelievable” for him and praised his leadership in leading the department through the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic since last March.

“His leadership has been unwavering this past year and probably some of his best work, I would think,” Day said. “Not trying to speak out of school, but he's done a tremendous job.”