Friday, May 24, 2024

Ohio State athletic director says ‘of course’ Michigan’s wins should carry asterisk amid sign-stealing scandal

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith pulled no punches when asked by central Ohio’s NPR affiliate whether he believes Michigan’s recent football victories over the Buckeyes should come with an “asterisk” because of the Wolverines’ sign-stealing scandal.

“Of course I do,” Smith said, laughing on the “All Sides with Anna Staver” show.” Smith repeated that “of course I do” before expounding on his view of the scandal, which hung over Michigan’s 2023 national title campaign.

“The rules are in place to protect the integrity of the game and try your best to create a level playing field,” Smith said. “When those rules are violated, then it affects those principles. We have to keep that in perspective.”

Michigan has a three-game winning streak over Ohio State: 30-24 in Ann Arbor in 2023, 45-23 in Columbus in 2022 and 47-42 in Ann Arbor in 2021, which snapped an eight-game streak by Ohio State in the rivalry. 

The elaborate sign-stealing scheme, allegedly perpetrated by former Michigan staffer Connor Stalions, resulted in a three-game suspension for Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh to close the regular season. However, the Wolverines still topped the Buckeyes for a third straight season with interim coach Sherrone Moore in charge. An NCAA investigation into the scandal remains open.

Smith is retiring in July after presiding over the Ohio State athletic department since 2005. During most of his tenure, the Buckeyes dominated Michigan in their heated football rivalry. However, the Wolverines have won three straight entering this year’s meeting, which will take place at Ohio State.

“I’m not one that looks back,” Smith said. “I think what’s important for us is to look forward. We host that team up north this fall, and I’m assuming it’ll be what it’s always been. The last time that we had the level of interest in that game was 2006 with No. 1 vs. No. 2. This year, it probably won’t be No. 1 vs. No. 2, but it’ll be No. 1 vs. somebody and we need to pack that place. Be in your seat early. Don’t wait until the kickoff. Be in your seat early.”

Moore has since been named Michigan’s head coach after Harbaugh returned to the NFL as head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers. Former Ole Miss and Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork is stepping in to replace Smith as the Buckeyes enter the 2024 campaign ranked No. 2 in Dennis Dodd’s post-spring top 25. 

After seeing 13 players selected in the NFL Draft and losing Harbaugh, the Wolverines are ranked No. 12 by Dodd, meaning the expectation is that Ohio State will get back on the winning side of the rivalry during a critical sixth season for coach Ryan Day.

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