Gene Smith is this year’s chair of the NCAA Selection Committee and thus, is the target of frustration for all the people who wouldn’t want the job but are more than happy to criticize what Smith and his group labored over for who-knows-how-long. Of course, it’s infinitely easier to tear down the work of others than to tackle the actual task yourself. Don’t be fooled for a minute that if Jay Bilas or Dick Vitale, or . . . anyone attempted the charge of selecting the 37 at-large teams and seeding the 68 that make up the NCAA Tournament that people would be shouting, “Perfect! They nailed it!”
Each year, the committee chair is forced to face the public right after the announcements, and explain the inevitable controversy that arises from the eventual choices. Although Smith knew he had to endure this uncomfortable situation, another set of circumstances would trump his misery. He had absolutely no clue when he accepted the lead role that, of all years, he’d have to discuss - and support - his heretofore clean-cut football coach, Jim Tressel, against charges of committing NCAA violations and lying to the governing body about his role in the case.
Smith can’t be blamed for having his defenses up and being hesitant to anything that could come back and bite him. As far as timing, him serving as this year’s chair has to be the all-time negative coincidence. However, as the overused term goes, “It is what it is” and college basketball fans all over the nation want to hear the answers to the same questions that’s posed to the committee every year at this time: “Why?”
First, (OSU alum) Clark Kellogg and Jim Nantz of CBS, then George Smith of ESPN interviewed the Ohio State AD regarding decisions made by the committee he headed and, in each case, he told the viewers . . . nothing! Every question was answered with a generic response, e.g. “there are so many good teams, we just didn’t have enough slots” and “we spent so much time on the top two lines” (#1 and 2 seeds) “but we spent a lot of time on the final teams as well.”
Regardless of his personal situation and the difficulty of the queries, the viewing public deserved more specific information. In short:
“The only way he could have said less is if he’d talked longer.”