COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith could earn as much as $1.2 million annually -- making him one of the highest-paid ADs in the country -- after signing a contract addendum this summer.
Now in his 27th year in athletic administration, and after five years at Ohio State, he said he never could have foreseen the day when an AD made a seven-figure paycheck.
"Yeah, if I came back to my time when I started in this profession, I'm shocked at how fast it's grown," he said Thursday. "But at the same time, we have a lot of risk and responsibility. So I understand how it's gotten to be where it is today."
The 54-year-old Smith had his base salary boosted to $800,000 and also will receive $200,000 for media and public relations duties. The changes approved by the university in June also include bonus performance incentives that could bring his annual pay to $1.2 million.
The pay raise was not voted on by the school's board of trustees because it was an addendum and not a contract. It was first reported by The Columbus Dispatch.
The base salary is the same as that of Ohio State President Gordon Gee. Buckeyes football coach Jim Tressel makes around $3.5 million a year.
The $1.2 million would put Smith in the same pay bracket as Florida AD Jeremy Foley.
A meeting between Smith and Gee set the wheels in motion on Smith's salary bump.
"Gordon and I had a great conversation this summer and he values what I'm able to provide to the team," said Smith, a Notre Dame grad who played defensive end on the Fighting Irish's national championship team in 1973. He also has had stints at Eastern Michigan, Iowa State and Arizona State.
He said that his salary seems to be commensurate with any CEO in charge of a corporation with a $120-million budget. Ohio State has 36 intercollegiate sports, the most of any athletic department in the nation.
"You look at the national market," he said. "And you look at the fact that we have the most comprehensive, the largest [athletic department] in the country."
In his tenure at Ohio State, Smith has not had to hire any head coaches in the only money-making sports at the school, football and men's basketball. He inherited new or reconstructed facilities in almost every sport. The university has upped ticket prices in football and basketball in recent years because of shortfalls due to the economy and because of debt service created by the building boom under Smith's predecessor, Andy Geiger.
The length of Smith's contract was not extended. It expires on June 30, 2016.
Smith said he was unsure of whether this would be his final contract with Ohio State.
"The years were a part of my last contract, so I really wasn't interested in adding more years," he said. "I don't know what I'm going to do next. I'm only 54 and I've got a lot in me."