Ohio State hires Jocelyn Gates as senior athletics administrator, replacing Diana Sabau

Joey Kaufman
Buckeye Xtra
Jocelyn Gates becomes a senior associate athletics director at Ohio State.

Ohio State on Monday announced it has hired Boston College administrator Jocelyn Gates as a senior associate athletics director, a role that includes overseeing the administration of the Buckeyes’ football program.

As a senior associate athletics director and senior women administrator at Boston College since 2017, Gates oversaw women’s basketball, women’s soccer and men’s and women’s golf.

Other administrative responsibilities for the department included human resources, strength and conditioning, compliance and student-athlete development, according to a staff bio page.

She held previous senior roles in the athletic department at South Florida and was also an administrator at Duke and a postgraduate intern for the NCAA. Last year, she was named the NCAA Division I FBS Nike Administrator of the Year.

Gates replaces Diana Sabau, a longtime employee within Ohio State’s athletic department who had overseen football since 2017.

Sabau left last month to become a deputy commissioner and chief sports officer for the Big Ten.

In a Zoom call with reporters, Gates said she was first approached by Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, who encouraged her to apply for the opening.

She wasted little time in her pursuit.

“I’m so excited to be a part of a program and an institution that has such a rich tradition of winning, a great culture and providing an awesome experience,” Gates said. “So when you get a call for a job like this, you don't turn it down. You run. And that's what I'm doing, I am running.”

The opportunity to work with Smith was also an alluring prospect. Gates referred to Smith as the GOAT among athletic directors.

“He's one of the best in the business and to be able to come and learn from him, that is just something that is such a blessing,” she said.

In a statement, Smith described Gates as “a highly successful sport administrator with a diverse background of experiences.”

As the top administrator for football, Gates will handle the scheduling of non-conference games.

It was a high priority for Sabau, who recently helped the Buckeyes add high-profile home-and-home series with Alabama and Georgia to future schedules.

Gates said she plans to maintain a similar non-conference scheduling philosophy for football that includes one marquee game against a Power Five Conference opponent each season, plus two other games against Football Bowl Subdivision teams.  

Since 2016, the Buckeyes have been limited to three non-conference games after the Big Ten adopted a nine-game conference schedule for the regular season.

“One of the biggest things is to make sure to provide the best inventory for the fans,” Gates said, “so that people are excited to come, we make the (College Football Playoff) and that we have a good time doing it.”

Gates also has proven adept in other areas of football administration.

Former Boston College athletic director Martin Jarmond said she was his “righthand person” during a head coaching search in late 2019 that led the Eagles to hire then-Buckeyes defensive co-coordinator Jeff Hafley.

“She was intimately involved in the whole search from nuts to bolts, from profiling candidates to doing all the interviews,” said Jarmond, now the athletic director at UCLA. “She sat in every room beside me, every dinner, every late night, she was right there. She was key in bringing Jeff Hafley to Boston College.”

In a phone interview, Jarmond offered glowing praise for Gates, whom he hired at Boston College and will take on a role he was once held in Columbus.

Before becoming an athletic director, Jarmond was the top football administrator at Ohio State and was succeeded by Sabau.

“Jocelyn's a rock star,” he said. “She's a great teammate. She's one of the best people I've ever worked with. As far as being a champion for student-athletes, she played, so she gets it. And also she's a collaborator. She's one that brings people together, and she's solution-oriented. She gets to the bottom of things and figures it out all with a smile and a good spirit.”

Gates met Jarmond when she was a senior athletics director at South Florida and contacted him in the hope of scheduling a non-conference game against Ohio State.

Once a month for three years, she called Jarmond.

“I never got a game scheduled,” Gates said, “but it’s OK because I built an amazing relationship with Martin.”

Ohio State will not quite be a homecoming for Gates. She’s a native of Wilmington, Delaware, and played on the women's soccer team at Howard.

But she will be closer to family.

Her husband is Dennis Gates, who is the men's basketball coach at Cleveland State. The couple, along with their two children, will now only be separated by about a two-hour drive on I-71. She is also expecting their third child this week.

“It's really awesome to be in the same state, have our family together and just be able to be around each other more often,” Gates said.

Dispatch reporter Bill Rabinowitz contributed to this story.

jkaufman@dispatch.com

@joeyrkaufman