Sunday, May 28

Ohio State AD Gene Smith suggests College Football Playoff, not NCAA, should govern sport’s highest level

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One of the many ways in which college football at the FBS level is unique from other college sports is how its postseason is run independently of NCAA oversight, which has led to increasing power for the College Football Playoff since its inception in 2014. Now, one prominent leader in the sport is suggesting that CFP leadership take control of college football at the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith suggested Tuesday at the Big Ten’s spring meetings that the CFP should have a greatly expanded role in major college football as the sport grapples with profound change on numerous fronts — the transfer portal and student-athlete NIL rights chief among them. Specifically, Smith suggested that the FBS level should operate under the CFP with its own rules and structure, while the NCAA would continue to host championships for basketball and Olympic sports. 

Per ESPN: 

“We [can] create our own rules, create our own governance structure, have our own enforcement, we have our own requirements, whatever that might be,” Smith said. ” … 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 vowed this week to crack down on boosters disguising “pay for play” payments as NIL, but college athletics’ governing body has been largely toothless on the NIL front. Smith, meanwhile, has been one of college football’s most respected voices during a period of change for the sport, as he’s captained the Buckeyes’ athletic department since 2005. 

Smith clarified that he was “just throwing ideas out,” but his voice nevertheless carries weight in college sports. Outside of SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, Smith is among college football’s most visible administrative figures. With the SEC and Big Ten leading college football’s new frontier in annual revenue, Smith figures to be a central component in the conversations that will shape the future of the sport.

“The reality is we need to begin to control our own space,” Smith told ESPN. “We’ve got to make sure we’re careful with antitrust, but at the end of the day, we need different rules.”

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