Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith announced on Wednesday that he will retire following the completion of the 2023-24 academic year. And Smith, who has been the AD at Ohio State since 2005, is already pulling no punches on his way out the door.
Smith isn’t saying anything we already didn’t know, as he revealed that money was the driving factor in Oregon and Washington joining the Big Ten. According to Eleven Warriors, Smith previously did not anticipate adding more teams this year, but that has since changed, as Washington and Oregon will make their way from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten, along with USC and UCLA in 2024.
In doing so, Smith has essentially confirmed that Fox was the driving factor for this move and gave the green light. This previously wouldn’t have been something that the rest of the conference greenlit, as splitting more of the revenue with two more schools isn’t exactly an attractive option. And according to Smith’s latest comments, it was Fox that produced more money, approximately $30-35 million per year for each of those two schools to make their way from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten.
Here are Smith’s rather revealing comments via Eleven Warriors:
“The original dollar figures that we had prior to Oregon and Washington coming in stayed the same for those institutions that were already in. Fox brought new money to the table for Oregon and for Washington that they provided,” Smith said during his press conference on Wednesday. “It wasn’t diluted to us. The long-term play is that, hopefully, when we negotiate the next deal, that’s valuable inventory. So year five or six, whenever assuming it’s Tony goes to negotiate a new deal, you have Oregon and Washington in your portfolio.”
The addition of Oregon and Washington to the Big Ten will not result in a decrease in revenue for Ohio State and the other Big Ten schools. This is why they were seemingly OK with the expansion, even though it meant adding two teams from the West Coast. This essentially confirms what everyone had already assumed, which is that Fox was the driving force behind the deal.
Smith believes that Oregon and Washington will be valuable additions to the Big Ten for streaming rights. Streaming rights are likely to be a larger component of the Big Ten’s next media rights contract than they are in the current contract, which includes a streaming feature with Peacock but is primarily based on linear television broadcasts. With Fox, CBS, and NBC all set to broadcast games on their national networks weekly, the Big Ten will need to add teams with large fan bases and national appeal to increase the value of its streaming rights. Oregon and Washington are two such teams, with large and passionate fan bases that extend well beyond their respective states. They are also both consistently competitive on the field, which will make them attractive to viewers.