On the Beat: Ohio State both spending, winning at championship level now

COLUMBUS, Ohio ― Gene Smith might not like everything going on in the marketplace, but the Ohio State athletic director clearly has come to terms with one key element of competing on a national scale.

If it takes money to make money, the Buckeyes also have to spend it to win championships.

Maybe there’s something still somewhat unsavory about everybody cashing in but the players in this financial transaction, but that’s a topic for another day. At least when it comes to taking care of the student-athletes, it’s never been more clear that Ohio State is committed to opening up the purse strings as wide as possible to make them comfortable ― and put them in position to win at the highest level.

The Woody Hayes Athletic Center is still under construction to make the practice complex even more luxurious and keep up with the arms race for facilities. Ohio State has been a vocal champion for cost of attendance and stipends for families when it comes to travel for the College Football Playoff. And on Wednesday, Smith delivered the strongest message yet that his football program has every intention of staying among the game’s elite by unveiling a salary pool for Urban Meyer’s assistant coaches that grew by $3.4 million.

Sure, that might not seem like such a big deal when programs such as Texas A&M are splashing around $75 million for a coach seemingly without a second thought. But for Ohio State, this is a significant marker of progress for a program that a decade ago would have bristled at the thought of paying a million bucks for a coordinator ― and now has two of them in Greg Schiano and Ryan Day.

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Ryan Day hit the $1 million mark with his new deal at Ohio State. (Land of 10/file photo)

Paying elite coaches is one of the few areas where college football programs can find an edge, and retaining them is the surest way to keep it. Smith might not be a fan of the deals Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher or Alabama’s Nick Saban signed, even though Meyer is still well ahead of the curve when it comes to annual compensation. But you get what you pay for on the sidelines, and Ohio State is fully committed at a championship level.

“I’m totally at peace, and it’s not a philosophy change,” Smith said last week. “It was always a concern of mine about what we would be capable of. We have 36 sports, a thousand athletes and we’re blessed right now with Buckeye Nation and trying to keep our ticket prices at a reasonable level. We’re 100 percent self-supporting. If you strive for excellence in every sport you have, then financially you have to be able to do that.

“ … “The reality is we have to compensate people consistent with the expectations and their performance. I am incredibly pleased with the performance of these coaches, year after year, and I’m certain Buckeye Nation is, as well.”

Keeping those coaches around for those multiple years is where Smith comes in, and his role shouldn’t be minimized as the school commits these huge sums of money to help compete for trophies.

Even at a place such as Ohio State that sees how much money the self-sufficient athletic department and the football team can bring in for the school, that’s probably not always an easy pill to swallow at times for administrators focused on the academic mission. For years, it seemed as if even on the athletic department side, there were some feet dragging when it came to diving into these spending battles.

But that opens up the staff to turnover when deeper pockets come looking for proven coaches. The last thing Meyer would ever want is for somebody such as running backs Tony Alford or rising star Day to make a lateral move in title in exchange for a raise in pay. And there’s no reason for Ohio State to ever let that happen.

Smith has plainly recognized that, and he is doing his part.

The Buckeyes are spending like champions. In the game of this era, that’s what it takes to stay one.

The post On the Beat: Ohio State both spending, winning at championship level now appeared first on Land of 10.

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