But Saturday in South Bend, Indiana, Smith will make a long-anticipated trip to one of his “other” homes.
“I’m a Buckeye. Let’s be clear. I’ve been here longer than I was at Notre Dame,” Smith said. “Notre Dame set me up for life.”
Smith played defensive end for the Fighting Irish and won a national title in 1973. After his playing career, Smith moved to the Notre Dame coaching staff, serving as an assistant during another national title season in 1977. But Smith’s time in coaching was brief, as he saw bigger opportunities in the corporate world.
“I owe a great deal to them,” Smith said. “Notre Dame, in my years as a player and then as a coach… They set me up for an opportunity that I didn’t know was going to come and that opportunity was working at IBM.”
Watch Smith talk about his time at Notre Dame in the video below.
Smith sold computers for IBM and gave presentations to large crowds, which he said was critical training en route to moving back into college athletics as an administrator. He served as athletic director at Eastern Michigan, Iowa State and Arizona State before arriving at Ohio State in 2005.
Smith will retire from OSU next summer.
“Every year here I was constantly reinventing myself and constantly growing as a leader,” Smith said. “So we’re the total sum of our experiences in life and my experiences at Notre Dame were phenomenal, but I still learned a lot here.”
Due to his travels and other work in administration, Smith has not been back to Notre Dame Stadium in more than 40 years. He’s missed countless reunions and national title celebrations. On Saturday, he’ll be back in the building where so many important moments in his young life unfolded. He said he’ll stop by some tailgates run by former teammates and friends in South Bend.
And he’s hoping to see his Buckeyes earn a sixth straight win over the Irish.
“We’ve been blessed to play them and didn’t anticipate that we would have this opportunity to play them now this way, so I’m looking forward to it,” Smith said.
The Ohio State-Notre Dame game will be broadcast on NBC4 this Saturday with coverage beginning at 7 p.m.