Smart: Stetson to start at QB; Daniels health still unclear


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — If there was any doubt left about who will be starting at quarterback for No. 3 Georgia against No. 2 Michigan in the College Football Playoff, Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart tried to put an end to it.

“Stetson (Bennett) is our starting quarterback,” Smart said during a video conference with reporters.

Smart added that whether backup JT Daniels plays in the Orange Bowl will be determined by the game situation and Daniels’ health. Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken was asked about the quarterback situation and said Bennett was the guy.

Daniels began the season as the starter but an injury opened the door for Bennett, who never relinquished the job.

After Georgia lost to the Southeastern Conference title game to Alabama, with Bennett throwing two interceptions, speculation about a quarterback switch started.

But it has never been more than that. Smart has stressed that the quarterback decision is based on competition and what gives the team the best chance to win.

“It’s different than other positions when it comes to making that decision for your whole team, and certainly that guy is the face and the leader of the team and gets the most reps,” Smart said. “I’m confident in Stetson now and I’m confident in JT. I thought Coach Monken did a great job addressing that yesterday, and we’ve got confidence in all our quarterbacks.”

As for Daniels’ health, the junior transfer from Southern California did not travel with the team Miami, arriving a day later with receiver George Pickens.

Smart said the Bulldogs dealt with some COVID-19 issues, but gave no specifics.

“We had a little bout the last couple weeks that we lost some guys, and we’ve gotten most of those guys back, and really that’s the biggest thing is being at full strength when you have to be, and that’s what we’re aiming towards,” Smart said.


Cincinnati defensive tackle Curtis Brooks doesn’t buy into the notion that it is “now or never” for the Bearcats and a shot at the national title.

“For the seniors, it’s definitely now or never because it’s our last chance. But as far as Cincinnati, I don’t believe this is the last time Cincinnati will be on a stage like this,” Brooks said. “The program is headed in the right way in all directions in my opinion. So I really believe Cincinnati is going to become a household name.”

The fourth-ranked Bearcats (13-0) under coach Luke Fickell are the first non-Power Five team to make the four-team playoff. The American Athletic Conference champions play defending national champ and top-ranked Alabama in the CFP semifinal Cotton Bowl.

“I’m kind of seeing how it came from the bottom to the top and then now we’re in a nice position. And obviously with the team moving to the Big 12, it’s just more opportunity for guys to really show what they can do,” senior safety Bryan Cook said. “So I would agree with Curtis Brooks as far as it’s just the beginning. You’re going to see a lot of big things from this team moving forward.”

Brooks and Cook are among more than 30 seniors for the Bearcats, who will join the Big 12 no later than the 2025 season.

Brooks said knocking off the Crimson Tide would be a dream come true after watching them so much growing up. Alabama has won six of the last 12 national titles.

“That’s who was on TV all the time. And now we get the opportunity to go play them,” Brooks said. “It’s everything you ask for as a football player.”


Last week, Michigan won the Joe Moore Award given to the nation’s best offensive line.

This week, The Foundation for Teamwork, which owns and operates the Joe Moore Award, announced it is launching a NIL program that will allow Michigan’s offensive lineman to receive some of the proceeds from sales of T-shirts emblazoned with images of the winners.

Some of the money from sales of shirts, which are available to purchase online for $20, will go to the SEAL Legacy Foundation, which supports Navy SEALS and their families, and The AthLife Foundation, which aids children from challenged communities to attain careers beyond sports.

The Foundation Team says the players will receive 100% of the net sales after the charitable donation, and the foundation will match the donation up to $10,000.


Cincinnati defensive lineman Curtis Brooks came to the school from Virginia and has learned to like the city’s famous dish – Skyline Chili.

“I first came to Cincinnati, I was not a huge fan of the chili, especially the Skyline,” Brooks said. “But I got some great friends from Cincinnati, Malik Vann, Darrian Beavers, kind of sat me down and forced me to eat it one more time. And I’m actually a huge fan of it now. Crazy.”

Brooks said for those who are Skyline skeptical, the key is repetition.

“You can’t just try it one time. You have to go back and try it again,” Brooks said. “Have to.”

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.