Ohio State's Athletic Director Gene Smith credits Notre Dame with his success

NOW: Ohio State’s Athletic Director Gene Smith credits Notre Dame with his success

Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith is one of the most successful in college sports. During his 18 seasons in Columbus, the Buckeyes have won 28 team and 105 individual national championships. He says none of that would have happened if he had not played football at Notre Dame.

"USC was on the list. Michigan, Bo Schembechler was at Michigan. Woody Hayes was at Ohio State. Iconic coaches at the time," Smith said. "I fell in love with Notre Dame, fell in love with Ara Parseghian."

Smith and his best friend, Ross Browner, both defensive ends from Ohio, had their pick of the top football programs in the country.

They decided to go to college together. Ultimately, Ara Parseghian won them both over

"I remember sitting at Ara's office, I can see it now sitting across his desk, and I was just so impressed with his style and how he communicated. And that resonated with me," Smith said.

Browner became one of the greatest players to ever wear an Irish uniform, a Hall of Famer and an All-American.

"Ross was special, Ross was at that level, he walked in that way. And so, it was just a whole different ballgame. And so I knew what I had to do in order to progress in my opportunity," Smith said.

Together they won a National Championship their freshman year in 1973.

Smith played more of a backup role on the field, but made his mark in the film room.

"I was a locker room guy. I think that's why ultimately Dan Devine asked me to stay on and be a graduate assistant," Smith said.

In Smith's first year on staff Notre Dame won the 1977 National Championship.

"I was coaching my teammates. And so, you know, it was really, it was really strange for me a little bit," Smith said.

After 4 years as an assistant coach he entered the business world and worked for IBM at the dawn of the computer age.

"Ara Parseghian's office was right next to ours in downtown South Bend," Smith said.

Smith told his former coach the job wasn't fulfilling.

Soon after he received a call from his former defensive coordinator Paul Shoults the athletic director at Eastern Michigan and Smith's life changed forever.

"Paul called me out of the blue. He wanted someone with a business background, someone that knew football and, and he was committed to diversity. So I went and I spent time with him and convinced me to leave IBM and all that commission and go work for him for a little lesson. And I'm glad I did. He taught me to business," Smith said.

Now, 45 years after graduating from Notre Dame, Smith is responsible for the Irish and Buckeyes going head-to-head for a home-and-home series.

"I always cheer for Notre Dame, I really do except when we play them, and I don't care, whatever sport it is soccer, volleyball, whatever it is, but I will cheer them. I love them, and but at the end of the day, you know, I'm a Buckeye," Smith said.

When Coach Freeman was a student athlete at Ohio State he interned with Smith in the athletic department.

Smith said Freeman would've made an incredible AD because of his emotional intelligence, intellect and just how good he is with people.

But he says Freeman went to the 'dark side' when he got into coaching.

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