CFT Previews: Hyundai Sun Bowl


WHO: N.C. State (7-5) vs. Arizona State (7-5)
WHAT: The 84th Hyundai Sun Bowl
WHEN: 3 p.m. ET on CBS
WHERE: Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, Texas
THE SKINNY: Do you like awkwardness? If so, do we have a bowl matchup for you.

Let’s start with the Sun Devils. Despite making the bizarre decision to hire Herm Edwards (who Will Likely show up in the broadcast booth at some point during the game), former head coach Todd Graham will still be coaching his team in this game as they look to win an eight game for the fourth time in his six-year tenure. Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett will also be sticking around but will leave the program after the game while offensive coordinator Billy Napier has turned over play-calling duties to Rob Likens after taking a head coaching job at Louisiana-Lafayette.

And that’s not even getting to the actual Sun Devils who will be playing in this one, though there are some pretty good ones. That includes quarterback Manny Wilkins and his favorite target in wideout N’Keal Harry, who is big, fast, physical and can come up with a circus catch if you give him just a sliver of daylight. Running backs Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage are both multipurpose threats out of the backfield and really came on strong to close the regular season.

Across the sideline, the biggest question facing the Wolfpack is if star defensive end Bradley Chubb will play in the game or not. He was one of, if not the, best defenders in college football in 2017 and made the trip with the team but it’s still unknown whether he’ll sit out to avoid injury and focus on the NFL. Chances are he will not play but State still has a really stout group up front even without him in the lineup.

Offensively, quarterback Ryan Finley has really developed nicely and played a big role in the team averaging just over 30 points per game this year. Of course, it helps to have weapons like Nyheim Hines at running back (5.7 ypc) and the super versatile Jaylen Samuels. Both are big play threats with every touch and have the potential to find some space in this game as well.

Given all the strange factors in this one, the Sun Bowl could play out about a dozen different ways. The Wolfpack could play uninspired after making the trip West and there might be an on-field issue if they’re missing their best player. Or it could be the Sun Devils get overly emotional given all that has gone on with their coaching staff leading up to kickoff? Something says they’ll meet somewhere in the middle of all that awkwardness and trade scores for a few drives before NCSU settles down to win things in the second half.

THE PICK: N.C. State 30, Arizona State 17

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.