With five teams in the Top 15, the Big 12 stakes its claim as college football’s deepest conference


For one week at least, the Big 12 has a legitimate claim as FBS’s deepest conference.

The league placed five teams in both the Associated Press and Amway Coaches’ polls, tying the SEC for sheer tonnage of elite teams but outpacing Mike Slive’s league in terms of volume of top teams. While the SEC has a paltry (heavy sarcasm, folks) 35 percent of its teams in the top 15, the Big 12 checks in at a clean 50 percent.

Boil it down, and pollsters in both major polls believe half the Big 12 ranks among the top 11.7 percent of FBS teams.

The teams, and, oddly enough, their rank, are the exact same in both polls. Baylor is fourth, Oklahoma is 11th with TCU one spot behind at No. 12, while Kansas State is No. 14 and Oklahoma State rounds out the group at No. 15. West Virginia and Texas have also displayed enough competence to count themselves as bowl-quality teams in most any other conference.

While the league did not pick up a major win outside of the conference – TCU’s 30-7 shellacking of otherwise undefeated Minnesota is the closest qualifier – the Big 12 did post some impressive showings as heavy underdogs, with West Virginia challenging Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic, Oklahoma State holding the ball with a chance to take the lead deep in the fourth quarter before falling to Florida State 37-31 in the Cowboys Classic, and Kansas State muffing a winnable game away versus Auburn. Quality of games inside the conference has been high, as TCU’s 37-33 defeat of Oklahoma and subsequent 61-58 gagging to Baylor rank among October’s most entertaining and highly-competitive games.

There are two downsides here for the Big 12. First, a “best conference” championship is entirely mythical. The College Football Playoff selection committee has stated over and over that they will rank teams according to their own schedules and won’t think in terms of conference vs. conference. It sure is fun to talk about, though.

Regardless, the conference has positioned itself well enough that the forecast for earning a Playoff spot appears clear at the season’s midpoint.

Finally, the Big 12’s lofty status is likely to last all of one week. Simple polling economics dictates that the number Will Likely drop from five to three by this time next week as No. 15 Oklahoma State visits No. 12 TCU (4 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1) and No. 14 Kansas State pays a visit to No. 11 Oklahoma (noon ET, ESPN).

Georgia extends contract for AD Josh Brooks, plans two new football practice fields

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ATHENS, Ga. – On the heels of a second straight national football championship, Georgia has rewarded athletic director Josh Brooks a contract extension that ties him to the Bulldogs through at least 2029.

The athletic association board, wrapping up its annual spring meeting Friday at a resort on Lake Oconee, also announced plans for a new track and field facility that will free up space for two more football practice fields.

Brooks’ new contract will increase his salary to $1.025 million a year, with annual raises of $100,000.

The 42-year-old Brooks, who took over the athletic department in 2021 after Greg McGarity retired, called the Georgia job “a dream for me” and said he hopes to spend the rest of his career in Athens.

“I am extremely grateful,” Brooks said. “I got into this business 20-plus years ago as a student equipment manager. My first job at Louisiana-Monroe was making $20,000 a year in football operations.”

The Georgia board approved a fiscal 2024 budget of $175.2 million, a nearly 8% increase from the most recent budget of $162.2 million and the sign of a prosperous program that is flush with money after its success on the gridiron.

The school received approval to move forward with its preliminary plans for a new track and field facility, which will be built across the street from the complex hosting the soccer and and softball teams.

The current track stadium is located adjacent to the Butts-Mehre athletic facility, which hosts the practice fields and training facilities for the football program.

Georgia lost a chunk of its outdoor fields when it built a new indoor practice facility. After the new track and field stadium is completed, the current space will be converted to two full-length, grass football practice fields at the request of coach Kirby Smart.

“He wants to find efficient ways to practice, and there is a lot of truth to the issues we’ve had with our current practice fields,” Brooks said. “There is a lot of strain on our turf facilities staff to keep that field in great shape when half the day it is getting shade, so that has been a challenge as well. For our football program, it is better to practice on grass fields than (artificial) turf, so to be able to have two side-by-side grass fields is huge. It makes for a much more efficient practice.”

The new track and field complex, which will continue to be named Spec Towns Track, will also include an indoor facility, the first of its kind in the state of Georgia.

Iowa AD Gary Barta announces retirement after 17 years at Big Ten school

Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa athletic director Gary Barta will retire on August 1 after 17 years at the university, the school announced Friday.

Barta, 59, is one of the longest-tenured athletic directors in a Power Five conference. He was hired by Iowa in 2006 after being the AD at Wyoming.

An interim director will be announced next week, Iowa said.

In September, Iowa hired former Ball State athletic director Beth Goetz to be deputy director of athletics and chief operating officer, putting her in position to possibly succeed Barta.

“It has been an absolute privilege and honor to serve in this role the past 17 years,” Barta said in a statement. “This decision didn’t come suddenly, nor did it come without significant thought, discussion, and prayer.”

“That said, I’m confident this is the right time for me and for my family.”

Iowa won four NCAA national team titles and 27 Big Ten team titles during Barta’s tenure. The women’s basketball team is coming off an appearance in the national championship game and the wrestling team is coming off a second-place finish at the NCAA championships.

Barta served as the chairman of the College Football Playoff committee in 2020 and 2021.

He faced heavy criticism over more than $11 million in settlements for lawsuits in recent years alleging racial and sexual discrimination within the athletic department.

Lawsuits filed by former field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum and associate athletics director Jane Meyer led to a $6.5 million payout.

Iowa had to pay $400,000 as part of a Title IX lawsuit brought by athletes after it cut four sports in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the agreement, Iowa reinstated the women’s swimming and diving program and add another women’s sport.

Iowa added women’s wrestling, the first among Power Five schools to compete this year.

A lawsuit brought by former football players alleging racial discrimination within the program was settled for $4.2 million last March, which prompted state auditor Rob Sand to call for Barta’s ouster.

“Gary Barta’s departure is a long time coming given the four different lawsuits for discrimination that cost Iowa more than $11 million,” Sand posted on Twitter.

The university did not allow taxpayer money to be used for the settlement with the former players.

Barta led Iowa through $380 million of facility upgrades, including renovation of Kinnick Stadium, the construction of a new football facility, a basketball practice facility and a training center for the wrestling teams.

Under Barta, Iowa has had just one head football coach (Kirk Ferentz), women’s basketball coach (Lisa Bluder) and wrestling coach (Tom Brands). All were in place when he arrived.

Barta has also come under scrutiny for allowing Ferentz to employee his son, Brian Ferentz, as offensive coordinator. To comply with the university’s nepotism policy, Brian Ferentz reports to Barta.