Ohio State AD Gene Smith Thinks FBS CFB Teams Should Operate Separate from NCAA

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVMay 4, 2022

Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith answers questions during a news conference, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State's athletic department will cut 25 jobs, furlough hundreds of other employees and ask coaches and others to take 5% pay cuts to help grapple with a projected $107 million budget deficit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, athletic director Gene Smith said Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
AP Photo/Jay LaPrete

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said FBS college football programs "need different rules" than the other NCAA sports.

Smith told ESPN's Heather Dinich on Tuesday teams competing for the College Football Playoff have a "different commitment" because of the 85 scholarships they can offer, and it should be treated as such, so he's been "throwing ideas out" to his fellow ADs:

"We [can] create our own rules, create our own governance structure, have our own enforcement, we have our own requirements, whatever that might be. ... That might be in the medical space, for example, if a student-athlete is injured and hurt in his or her senior year. You take care of them when they're done until they're healed. And we have the funding in place to do that. You don't touch anything else with the NCAA. You keep the academic requirements in place. The reality is, those schools who offer 85 scholarships in football have made a different commitment and that needs to be addressed."

The NCAA is set for a period of transition, with longtime president Mark Emmert set to step down no later than 2023, and the schools are dealing with the new challenges presented by student athletes' ability to capitalize on name, image and likeness (NIL) rights.

Smith said for the most part the NCAA framework should remain in place, including the FCS championship at the second tier of college football, but he urged the sport's biggest conferences to come together to create their own operation.

He told Dinich the structure could include “minimum standards for membership” and expansion to the College Football Playoff field.

"The CFP model needs to be looked at differently," Smith said. "As we consider expansion, we ought to consider the structure. The reality is we need to begin to control our own space. We've got to make sure we're careful with antitrust, but at the end of the day, we need different rules."

The Ohio State AD said his ideas have received "mixed reviews" from his peers so far.

Trying to get such a wide range of programs to agree on a single set of rules outside the NCAA guidelines will likely prove difficult. The Power 5 conferences are going to seek more control, but the Group of 5 schools will also want representation, especially in CFP matters.

There are 131 schools competing in FBS football and, while all may enjoy more freedom from NCAA regulations, the key question for those on the lower end of the spectrum is whether Smith's idea would further hasten the “haves and have-nots” of college football.

It's already an emerging issue, with top programs featuring donors and sponsors who can offer massive NIL contracts the mid- and low-majors simply can't match.

Smith said FBS commissioners have continued to discuss an expanded playoff for 2025, but he didn't provide a timetable for his more overarching idea.