Gene Smith and the NCAA’s NIL solutions would leave athletes with nil


Ohio state athletic director Gene Smith is in the “I’m Too Old for This” stage of his professional career. Buckeyes longtime athletic director Gene Smith will retire in 2024 and move somewhere warmer because Columbus isn’t the place. NIL won’t be a problem for him anymore after this season.

However, after 30 years of serving as an athletic director at Ohio State, and elsewhere, Smith has made it his mission to play a significant role in the formation of national NIL legislation before he rides off into the sunset.

On Wednesday, Smith testified before Congress’ House Committee on Small Business about the need in college athletics for uniform national name, image, and likeness regulations. It is a difficult political trick to strip away rights that a constituent has been granted access to. But the NCAA did its best and sent Smith in as the champion for the Power 4 aristocracy. Smith was upset that prospective student-athletes were asking for $5,000

in exchange for a school visit. Smith, who is the team president for Ohio’s third professional football franchise, sounded apoplectic at the thought of paying a few Benjamins. Smith’s straw-man argument is a perfect example of how much he lied. Even if recruits did occasionally request $5,000 to secure a trip, that would be small change. Ohio State pays six-figure sums to FCS programs for “money games” and doesn’t bat an eye. The Buckeyes’ GM went to Capitol Hill to express his concerns about the plight faced by college football’s elite class despite Ohio State’s financial advantage. Smith’s testimony before the Small Businesses Committee was anything but. In 2022, the NCAA earned $114 billion in revenue. “Student-athletes and their parents visit campuses at the expense of those universities to evaluate where they may make a commitment,” Smith wrote in a letter. It has become common to charge a school $5,000 to just visit the campus. “During visits, there are now discussions about how much money a student-athlete should expect from NIL.” The NCAA would benefit from this alternative financial relief, but not the athletes. We’d be able help them to settle deals. If you’re an athlete majoring in actuarial science and there is a company in Cleveland, I can take you up to Cleveland and I can take you up and help introduce you to the CEO, and say, ‘Hey, can you do a deal with him, and make sure he gets a good experience?'”Nah, man. All that backtracking is too late. Smith should have started pushing for this 10 years ago, before the Supreme Court’s ruling that ended the NCAA

outdated amateurism rule. Smith’s solution is something that the NCAA would have been better off supporting years ago, before they had to cross the rubicon of name, likeness, and image. After losing the battle, they have decided to use diplomacy to hire a politician as the new leader of the NCAA to convince student-athletes to accept surrender. When pressed on whether his model would allow athletes to strike NIL deals with collectives, Smith replied, “I’ll leave that to your imagination.”Anything that places significant restrictions on student-athletes accepting endorsement opportunities is a step back for the student-athlete. After the Supreme Court’s landmark case, any move that prevents student-athletes from obtaining lucrative endorsements will likely be subject to a return to the Supreme Court. The truth is, NIL legislation does not concern the players. It’s about the top-tier programs and athletic directors maintaining their own competitive advantage and keeping labor costs down for billion-dollar institutions.Follow DJ Dunson on X: @