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
Photo: WHIO TV
Photo: WHIO TV

Ohio State AD Gene Smith to help lead study of additional compensation for NCAA athletes

Ohio State director of athletics Gene Smith will co-chair a group set to study a significant issue that could shape the future of the NCAA. 

The NCAA Board of Governors Federal and State Legislation Working Group will be made up of member representatives from all three NCAA divisions and be tasked with examining the organization’s position on players’ ability to profit off their name, image and likeness. 

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Smith, Ohio State’s AD since 2005 and a university vice president since 2016, stressed in a statement accompanying the announcement this will not lead to direct “pay to play” for athletes, though it could change the organization’s stance on other ways players could receive money in relation to their exploits on the court or in the field.

“While the formation of this group is an important step to confirming what we believe as an association, the group’s work will not result in paying students as employees,” said Smith, who will co-chair the working group with Big East commissioner Val Ackerman. “That structure is contrary to the NCAA’s educational mission and will not be a part of this discussion.” 

A final report is due in August after the group “studies modifications of current rules, policies and practices” with a "focus on solutions that tie any changes to education; maintain the clear demarcation between professional and college sports; and further align student-athletes with the general student body.” 

As revenues have risen dramatically at the highest level of college sports over the past 10-20 years, calls for athletes to be compensated beyond the value of a scholarship and room and board have grown louder. 

While college leaders have generally opposed treating athletes as employees, allowing them to accept money for their name, image and likeness has been suggested (by outsiders) as an alternative. 

It is an issue Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany punted last summer during his annual state of the conference address at Big Ten Football Media Days in Chicago. 

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The announcement of the working group comes lawmakers in multiple states have proposed laws overriding some of the NCAA’s rules and regulations, including one in the Colorado state senate that would allow schools to pay athletes a salary and let them accept endorsements.  

“We believe the time is right for these discussions and look forward to a thorough assessment of the many complexities involved in this area,” Ackerman said in a statement. 

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