AP Top 25: Alabama closes gap with Clemson; Liberty in

Josh Morgan-USA TODAY Sports
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Clemson remained No. 1 in The Associated Press college football poll on Sunday, but not by much.

Trevor Lawrence’s absence because of COVID-19 and the Tigers’ narrow win over Boston College created a divide among the 62 writers and broadcasters on the voting panel.

Clemson received 33 first-place votes — 19 fewer than last week — and has only a two-point lead over No. 2 Alabama heading into a huge ACC matchup at fourth-ranked Notre Dame this week.

Alabama, which handed Mike Leach his first shutout as a head coach with a 41-0 victory over Mississippi State, got the other 29 first-place votes.

The rest of the top five remained the same, with Ohio State at No. 3, followed by Notre Dame and Georgia.

The unbeaten Liberty Flames, in their third year in the Football Bowl Subdivision, entered the rankings for the first time at No. 25. Penn State is out for the first time since 2016 following consecutive losses.

Voters had differing opinions on how to handle Clemson. Six voters who had Alabama No. 1 on their ballots had Clemson third behind Ohio State.

Lawrence was ruled out of the game against Boston College after testing positive for COVID-19, and coach Dabo Swinney announced that his Heisman Trophy front-runner wouldn’t play against Notre Dame either.

Clemson made up an 18-point deficit in the second half to beat BC 34-28. Five-star freshman D.J. Uiagalelei made his first start and got better as the game went on as Clemson pulled off its largest comeback for a home win in program history.

Alabama made easy work of Mississippi State and has now scored 35 or more points in 19 straight games, the longest streak in the FBS.


Liberty, which was idle Saturday, beat out Northwestern for the No. 25 spot. Hugh Freeze’s Flames are 6-0 against mostly light competition. Their biggest test so far comes this week at Virginia Tech.

The last time Penn State was unranked was Oct. 16, 2016. The next week the Nittany Lions upset Ohio State in Happy Valley and appeared in 63 straight polls in which they were eligible. (Big Ten teams were removed from consideration for two polls this year because of their coronavirus-delayed season.)

Penn State had the fourth-longest active streak behind Alabama (205), Ohio State (138) and Clemson (94).

Cincinnati, at No. 6, has its highest ranking since it finished the 2009 regular season No. 4.

No. 9 BYU is in the top 10 for the first time since it was No. 7 on Sept. 13, 2009.

No. 13 Indiana has its best ranking since it was as high as No. 11 in 1987.


— No. 22 Texas beat Oklahoma State in overtime for its first road win against a top-10 team since 2010 and is back after a three-week absence.

— No. 24 Auburn returned after two weeks following its rout of LSU.

— No. 25 Liberty’s schedule gets tougher now, with Virginia Tech, North Carolina State and Sun Belt Conference phenom and No. 15 Coastal Carolina still to come.


— North Carolina has lost two of three and dropped out for the first time this season.

— Penn State’s absence might be temporary, with winnable games against Maryland and Nebraska up next.

— Kansas State’s two-week stay ends with an ugly road loss to West Virginia.


The only conference without representation in the Top 25 is the Mid-American, which begins play Wednesday.

SEC — 5 (Nos. 2, 5, 7, 8, 24).

Big Ten — 4 (Nos. 3, 10, 13, 23).

Big 12 — 4 (Nos. 14, 17, 19, 22).

ACC — 3 (Nos. 1, 4, 11).

Pac-12 — 2 (Nos. 12, 20).

American — 2 (Nos. 6, 18).

C-USA — 1 (No. 16).

Mountain West — 1 (No. 21).

Sun Belt — 1 (No. 15).

Independent — 1 (No. 9, 25).


— No. 9 BYU at No. 21 Boise State, Friday: Third-string QB Baylor Romney orchestrated BYU’s upset of the Broncos last year. Zach Wilson will be leading the Cougars’ effort to win in Boise for the first time.

— No. 8 Florida vs. No. 5 Georgia in Jacksonville, Florida: The Bulldogs will go for a fourth straight win in the series but need to be sharper than they were against Kentucky.

— No. 1 Clemson at No. 4 Notre Dame: Another “biggest game of the year” — until the next one. Uiagalelei takes his show on the road while Lawrence remains in the COVID-19 protocol. The Irish defense has been tough, but the Tigers are a different animal.

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.