On March 25, Ohio State wrestler Logan Stieber won an NCAA championship for the 141-pound weight class. The win represented a milestone moment in Stieber’s life, a source of great pride for the Buckeyes’ wrestling program, and an $18,000 bonus for his athletics director, Gene Smith.
Smith’s contract dictated he receive a bonus worth one week’s salary for any individual Buckeye national championships, as well as more bonuses for accomplishments by Ohio State teams. For instance, he earned four weeks’ worth of salary – nearly $72,000 – for Ohio State’s appearance in the Orange Bowl. Overall, Smith’s contract dictated he could earn up to $240,000 in bonuses.
It’s standard stuff as far as AD contracts go. Smith had the same deal at his previous job (Arizona State), as well as at Iowa State before that. Every AD in the country likely has a similar bonus structure in their own contracts.
Now, though, thanks to the backlash resulting from Smith’s payday three months ago, Smith will work to change his contract when new Ohio State president Michael Drake arrives in Columbus in July.
“I’ve had some preliminary conversation with our general counsel on campus, and we’ll eventually probably change that,” Smith told BuckeyeSports.com. “If you made a public records request for some of the top ADs across the country, you would probably find the same thing. It needs to be changed and so we’ll end up changing that. The optics don’t look right, so we’ll change it.”
For what it’s worth, Stieber’s coach, Tom Ryan, had no problem with Smith’s bonus.
“The deal was if you run a program of excellence, if you create extraordinary opportunities for young people, you’re going to get rewarded for it, and he’s done that,” Ryan said. ““He’s done that for me. He did not have to put a new wrestling complex on the master plan. He did not have to do that, and he did it. He did not have to do a lot of the things that he’s done since I’ve been here. He did not have to increase some salaries so that I could put a great staff together. He did not have to warmly welcome the opportunity for the Olympic training center to be here. He did not have to do any of those things.”
It’s a new day for college sports, however, and this is likely the first of many moves to alter the bonus structure – specifically in terms of individual championships – among athletics directors.
“I don’t know when it started – probably in the ’80s is when these models came into place,” Smith said. “Nobody has changed it, so I guess I’ll be one of the few.”