Ohio State Buckeyes: Gene Smith reacts to potential expansion of conferences, playoff

Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith smiles as he talks to former coach Earle Bruce before a game against Rutgers on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016, at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. David Jablonski/Staff
Caption
Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith smiles as he talks to former coach Earle Bruce before a game against Rutgers on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016, at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. David Jablonski/Staff

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said he was not surprised to hear Texas and Oklahoma are at least contemplating a move to the SEC.

“I’m really not,” he said Friday morning before the second day of Big Ten Football Media Days began at Lucas Oil Stadium. “Who knows what else is being talked about anywhere else in any other conference? I can see how they probably got there, but I’m not surprised anymore. I’ve been doing this too long. I kind of get it a little bit.”

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If the Big Ten responds, he said it would do so deliberately.

“We haven’t had conversations,” Smith said. “We’re not overreacting. It’s not who we are. When we expanded (in 2011 and ’14), the whole world was going blow up — and it didn’t, right? When we added cost of attendance (to scholarships), the whole world was going to blow up — and it didn’t. We added (name, image and likeness compensation) and the whole world was going to blow up and it didn’t.

“We just have to pause, study, learn and do what’s right for us, but we haven’t had conversations about that move collectively.”

A day earlier, Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren did not rule out Big Ten expansion in the future.

“I know from where we sit we’re always constantly evaluating what’s in the best interests of the conference,” Warren said. “It will be interesting to see how that story that you mentioned yesterday, how that evolves and where it lands.”

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Smith, a former member of the College Football Playoff committee, also said he is warming to the idea of a 12-team format replacing the four-team version that has been in place since 2014.

Initially he was concerned a field that large could hurt the interest in the regular season across the country.

“But the more I thought about it and talked about it, I think it would probably increase the interest in the regular season across the board,” he said, acknowledging it might actually reduce the importance of the regular season for the Buckeyes because they likely could lose one or even two games and still get into the tournament . “So I’m not talking about us. I’m talking about the opportunities for others. So for college football, across the board that might make it better. So I’ve kind of leaned in and believe that 12 is probably the right number.”

He acknowledged the scheduling format still needs to be worked out, but he cast doubt on the possibility a game could be eliminated from the regular season.

“I don’t think you can reduce it to (11) because that impacts all the other schools who aren’t in it,” Smith said. “So imagine we weren’t in it. You’re taking away a game and taking away revenue. You can’t do that. So to me, we’ve got to figure out what’s the date of the games, what’s the spacing. Players want to play. They don’t want to practice. So when you get to that time, what’s the practice rules? How do you make sure you they protect their bodies? So, that has to be continually looked at.”