Baylor’s Dave Aranda gets contract extension through 2028 season

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
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WACO, Texas — Baylor coach Dave Aranda has agreed to a contract extension through the 2028 season after leading the Bears to a Big 12 championship and a school-record 12 wins capped by a Sugar Bowl victory on New Year’s Day and a No. 5 ranking in the final AP Top 25 poll.

The school announced the extension two months after athletic director Mack Rhoades had said there was a verbal agreement to amend the contract of the coach who at that time was being mentioned for several head coach openings. The private school does not disclose specific contract terms.

Aranda is 14-9 in his two seasons at Baylor, where he is a head coach for the first time. The 45-year-old Aranda was coming off an undefeated national championship as LSU’s defensive coordinator when he got a six-year contract in January 2020 after Matt Rhule left the Bears to become coach of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.

“My family and I are truly appreciative of the tremendous support we have received from Mack, President (Linda) Livingstone and the entire Waco community,” Aranda said. “I look forward to continuing the work we’ve started on and off the field in the years to come.”

Baylor went 2-7 in Aranda’s altered and shortened debut season. He wasn’t even able to have spring practices with his new team after taking the job because of the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bears were much improved on defense and had new offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes in 2021. They made it to the Big 12 title game for the second time in three seasons, winning 21-16 after safety Jairon McVea knocked Oklahoma State running back Dezmon Jackson out of bounds just inches short of the end zone pylon on his desperate, fourth-down dive.

Baylor’s only other Big 12 titles came in 2013 and 2014 under coach Art Briles, who was fired in May 2016 after the revelation of a sprawling sexual assault scandal. A lingering NCAA investigation related to that case was finally resolved last August, just before the season.

While there were no players or coaches remaining from Briles’ tenure, Baylor was placed on four years of probation while still able to play in postgame games. Aranda and his staff had to deal with a reduction of 30 official visits and a three-week ban on unofficial visits during recruiting this academic year.

Aranda was named the AP Big 12 coach of the year even before Baylor beat Ole Miss 21-7 in the Sugar Bowl and finished with its highest ranking ever in a season-ending AP Top 25 poll. The Bears’ 12-2 record included five wins over ranked teams, a single-season school record.

“Dave has brought unprecedented success to our football program both on and off the field. He has brought tremendous national exposure and acclaim to our institution and the greater Waco community,” Rhoades said. “Dave is, without question, one of the most brilliant minds in college football across the country.”

When he left LSU, Aranda was the highest-paid college assistant at $2.5 million a season, and had been a Power Five defensive coordinator for seven seasons. He was at Wisconsin from 2013-15 before spending four years at LSU. He began his college coaching career in the Big 12 as a graduate assistant at Texas Tech from 1999-2001.

Livingstone said Baylor is “extremely pleased” to make a long-term commitment Aranda after one of the most successful seasons in school history.

“We believe he has our football program and our student-athletes poised for ongoing development and sustained success,” Livingstone said. “We appreciate how Coach Aranda represents Baylor, and his sincere commitment to our Christian mission and our student-athletes is evident in all that he does.”

Air Force football sanctioned for recruiting violations

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AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — The Air Force football program received two years of probation from the NCAA and had its squad size reduced by 10 for four years as part of its sanctions for recruiting violations.

The penalties were announced Thursday after Air Force and four individuals reached an agreement with NCAA enforcement staff on recruiting violations. A fifth individual in the case has contested their role and will be heard by the committee on infractions.

The sanctions also include a fine and a reduction of 46 total official visits for the football program in the 2022-23 and `23-24 academic years. In addition, there’s a prohibition on unofficial visits in football from Sept. 1 through Oct. 12, 2022, and a reduced number of evaluation days this fall.

Air Force has around 115 players on its varsity roster, plus a JV team that all count as NCAA athletes and its roster size.

“The (committee) appreciates the parties’ efforts in working collaboratively together to reach agreement on the violations, levels, classifications, and significant and meaningful penalties,” Gary Miller, the chief hearing officer for the panel and president at Akron, said in a statement. “The panel also recognizes that Air Force has gone above and beyond in its overall approach to this case.”

In a joint statement, Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Richard Clark and director of athletics Nathan Pine said: “The U.S. Air Force Academy is pleased that our case has progressed to the point of the NCAA accepting our negotiated resolution. We will continue working with the NCAA on this ongoing self-reported case from the COVID dead period, as it’s our responsibility to ensure integrity of the institution, athletics department, cadet-athletes and staff.”

The Falcons are off to a 3-1 start and host Navy on Saturday to begin the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy competition. The trophy is presented to the service academy with the best record in the round-robin format.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”