At Texas, a QB competition emerges between Thompson and Card

Austin American Statesman

AUSTIN, Texas — When Casey Thompson and the Texas Longhorns whipped Colorado in the Alamo Bowl, there was little talk of a coming quarterback competition, let alone any whiff of a potential controversy at the position.

Thompson looked very much like the future of the program after an 8-of-10 passing performance with four touchdowns in the second half in relief of injured Sam Ehlinger. Texas dominated, and so did Thompson.

But a January coaching change from Tom Herman to Steve Sarkisian and the ripe talent of backup Hudson Card has made Saturday’s spring scrimmage, and the months leading into the 2021 season, all about one position and who will be the Longhorns starter against Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 4.

If Thompson is annoyed at having to prove himself again after waiting his turn for three years, he doesn’t show it.

“I sat for three years. It pushed me to become a better player every day. I said this right after the bowl game, (that) I’m hungry and I want to get better,” Thompson said this week when he and Card met with reporters for the first time this spring. “I’m embracing the competition.”

He didn’t always feel that way. After the 2018 season, Thompson briefly entered the transfer portal along with fellow freshman Cam Rising. Back then, everyone was stuck behind Ehlinger, who still had two seasons to play and had just led Texas to a 10-win season

Rising left for Utah. Thompson stayed. He also had to stay patient for two more years. He now says he’s glad he stuck it out at Texas, even with nothing yet guaranteed. He said “in life you get rewarded if you go through adversity.”

“I’m glad that I waited my turn and I’m glad that I didn’t play right away,” he said. “Obviously, the competitor in me wanted to play right away as a freshman or a sophomore. But now looking back, I think my maturity is really what helped me stay here. And I think I’ve embraced a new chapter in my life and a new role.”

The new challenge is fending off Card, who played at nearby Lake Travis High School, a factory of major-college quarterbacks. Card barely played last season, but his practice throws are already legendary.

Even Ehlinger was awed by what he saw, calling Card a “special player.”

“There’s really no other way to put it,” Ehlinger said. “He came out of the womb spinning the football.”

Card seems to relish the chance to jump the line and grab the job.

“He (Thompson) has had experience, but at the end of the day you grow and learn with new opportunities like this,” Card said. “I’m excited for what the future holds.”

None of this might have happened without the coaching change that upended what looked like a natural progression for Thompson. Sarkisian’s arrival meant new coaches to impress and a new playbook to learn.

“I was shocked,” Thompson said of the Herman firing. “I didn’t see it coming.”

Sarkisian liked what he saw from Thompson in the Alamo Bowl but that was just 10 passes. And he’s not giving any hints leaning toward either player, noting after the last scrimmage that “at that position, we have too many negative plays, and that’s not acceptable.”

Eligibility changes caused by the coronavirus pandemic would have allowed Ehlinger to return next season. He instead chose instead to pursue an NFL career. He ranks among the school’s career passing leaders in just about every major category.

Thompson plans to wear Ehlinger’s jersey No. 11, something he’s wanted since he got to campus.

“I actually wore No. 11 mostly my whole life until I got to college,” Thompson said.

The key is who will be No. 1 come September.

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


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.