Clemson’s Swinney: COVID-19 FSU’s ‘excuse to cancel game’

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Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said his team met the medical standard to play against Florida State and believes the Seminoles called off the game because of reasons other than COVID-19.

“This game was not canceled because of COVID. COVID was just an excuse to cancel the game,” an angry Swinney said Sunday night.

The fourth-ranked Tigers had arrived in Tallahassee, Florida on Friday when they learned a reserve offensive lineman had tested positive in the team’s latest testing. Clemson quickly isolated the unidentified player and sent him back to campus.

Swinney said players had eaten breakfast under a large “Ringling Brothers” circus type-tent in their hotel parking lot for final preparations when they learned they would not play.

“We listened to our medical folks and their assessment of the risk and we decided it wasn’t safe to play today,” Florida State athletic director David Coburn told the AP.

Clemson administrators offered additional testing to satisfy Florida State’s hesitation and playing the game later Saturday or Sunday or Monday. All suggestions were turned down and the Atlantic Coast Conference announced Saturday that medical personnel from both sides could not agree the game would be safe to play.

“To me the Florida State administration forfeited the game and if they want to play Clemson, in my opinion, they need to come to Clemson or they need to pay for all expenses,” Swinney said. “Other than that, there’s no reason for us to play them.”

The Tigers (7-1, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) were nearly five-touchdown favorites against the Seminoles (2-6, 1-6) in coach Mike Norvell’s first season.

The trip cost the Clemson athletic department about $300,000 according to athletic director Dan Radakovich.

Radakovich said he and Clemson would work with the ACC about rescheduling the contest. The Tigers face Pitt on Saturday in their final home game before heading to Virginia Tech on Dec. 5 for what was expected to be their last game of the regular season.

Clemson is off Dec. 12. The ACC Championship game is set for Dec. 19.

Radakovich was comfortable his school did everything possible to keep their players and staff, and those of the other team safe from the coronavirus.

“We have followed protocol,” he said.

Swinney said he’s attending medical meetings where procedures for a late positive test were discussed and debated. Travel rosters were expanded for such reasons, the coach said.

If a late positive test can call off a game, why play the season at all, Swinney asked.

It’s not the first time Clemson football has been hit by the global coronavirus pandemic.

Heisman Trophy contending quarterback Trevor Lawrence tested positive the Thursday before the Tigers played Boston College on Oct. 31. Lawrence also missed Clemson’s game at No. 2 Notre Dame — the Tigers lone loss this season and first regular-season defeat since 2017 — a week later as he followed guidelines for his return.

That was supposed to happen against the Seminoles. “Man, we were ready to play,” Lawrence said on Twitter soon after the postponement.

Swinney has not talked with Norvell and does not blame Florida State coaches or players for not playing.

“I feel bad for their players, too. There ain’t no way anybody can convince me their kids didn’t want to play,” Swinney said.

The Tigers were disappointed in the lost opportunity. By the time Clemson’s kicks off against Pitt next Saturday, it will have gone three weeks between games as it vies for a sixth straight ACC title and fifth national championship game appearance since 2015.

“It is what it is. We feel great, we’re healthy, we’re ready to go, we were in a good place, ready for kickoff,” Swinney said. “We’ll just pick up where we left off.”

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
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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.