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Ohio State's Gene Smith stepping down from College Football Playoff committee

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith is stepping down from the College Football Playoff selection committee to focus on helping first-year football coach Ryan Day, the CFP announced on Friday.

Smith, who spent the past two seasons on the committee charged with picking the four best teams in the country, will be replaced by Iowa athletic director Gary Barta.

"Serving on this committee has been an honor," Smith said in a prepared statement. "Contributing to this great sport is always a privilege, and I will miss the time with my colleagues. It is imperative for me to have 100 percent focus in helping our new coach with his transition at The Ohio State University this fall."

Barta is in his 12th year as Iowa's athletic director. He will begin a three-year term this spring. Barta was named to the committee by the CFP Management Committee.

"Gene has been an invaluable member of our CFP selection committee," CFP executive director Bill Hancock said in a prepared statement. "As a former football student-athlete, coach and now collegiate administrator, his influence is deeply appreciated. This is a significant time commitment, and we understand Gene's need to focus on his primary responsibility on campus."

Hancock added, "I'm delighted that Gary will be joining the committee. He is a highly respected leader in college football and I look forward to him becoming a member of the committee. I know Gary to be a person of excellent judgment and he'll fit right in."

Prior to his appointment at Iowa, Barta served as director of athletics at the University of Wyoming, senior associate athletics director at the University of Washington, director of athletics development and external relations at Northern Iowa, and associate director of development at North Dakota State.

Barta earned a bachelor's degree in mass communication and broadcast journalism from North Dakota State in 1987. He was an option quarterback for Bison football squads that won the NCAA Division II national championships in 1983, 1985, and 1986.

"I'm honored to be invited to work on the CFP selection committee," Barta said in a statement. "I look forward to serving alongside the other 12 committee members. I've known many of the people involved for years and know they're passionate about college football and have all demonstrated character and integrity throughout their careers."

Barta joins three other new committee members, who were announced in January: Terry Mohajir, Ray Odierno and R.C. Slocum.

It's not the first time the committee has had an unexpected departure. In 2014, Archie Manning relinquished his role in the summer before the inaugural season started, and in 2015, former West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck left the committee to pursue his job in the NCAA.

In October 2015, former USC athletic director Pat Haden stepped down for health reasons. In 2016, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr also stepped down for health reasons before the season started.