Ohio State announced Tuesday that it had found athletic director Gene Smith’s successor.
Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork will take over for Smith after Smith retires effective June 30. Bjork has been the athletic director at Texas A&M since he arrived from Ole Miss in 2019.
Smith has been one of the most influential athletic directors in the country in his time at Ohio State. He’s served on the College Football Playoff Committee and the NCAA Football Rules Committee while also spending time as the chair of the Men’s Division I Basketball Committee.
“Ross is uniquely equipped to step into our Buckeye community and make an immediate impact,” Smith said in a school statement. “As I have said, Ohio State has afforded me the professional opportunity of a lifetime, and I am forever grateful. My final, important project over the next several months will be to work with Ross to ensure a smooth and effective transition with our student-athletes, coaches, department staff and university leaders.”
Bjork replaced current LSU athletic director Scott Woodward in College Station and gave former Aggies football coach Jimbo Fisher a fully guaranteed $95 million contract extension in 2021 after a 9-1 season in 2020. That contract quickly became one of the biggest albatrosses in college sports as A&M went 8-4 in 2021, 5-7 in 2022 and was 6-4 in 2023 before Fisher was fired with two games to go in the regular season.
By firing Fisher just two seasons into his extension, the school owed him a buyout payment of over $75 million — the largest buyout ever owed to a college coach.
At Ohio State, Bjork takes over a football program that has even higher expectations than Texas A&M. Ohio State went 11-2 in 2023, but lost to Michigan for a third consecutive season and lost the Cotton Bowl.
With Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy heading to the NFL and the uncertainty surrounding coach Jim Harbaugh’s future, Ohio State is well-positioned to be the favorite in the Big Ten. Though the Buckeyes lost WR Marvin Harrison Jr. to the NFL Draft, numerous key players like RB TreVeyon Henderson, WR Emeka Egbuka, DE J.T. Tuimoloau and CB Denzel Burke are returning to Columbus in 2023. Their return along with the transfer additions of former Kansas State QB Will Howard and ex-Ole Miss RB Quinshon Judkins make it a playoff-or-bust season for coach Ryan Day as he looks to beat the Wolverines for the first time since 2019.