Scott Frost: Nebraska to ‘let it rip’ against Northwestern in Ireland

Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska will play a Week Zero game for the second straight season, and coach Scott Frost can’t afford a repeat of what happened a year ago.

The Cornhuskers’ loss at Illinois set the tone for a 3-9 season that ended with Frost clinging to his job after taking a $1 million pay cut and firing four offensive assistants.

Frost’s fifth season begins against Northwestern in Ireland, and another Week Zero flop would be an ominous sign. Frost said his team must play looser than it did in the 30-22 loss to Illinois.

“We’re going to go out there and let it rip,” he said. “I’m going to have more conversations with them about it. They have earned the right to be confident, and I’m sure Northwestern is, too. I think they’re going to be a really good team this year, and I don’t want the guys to worry about anything.”

Nebraska beat Northwestern 56-7 in Lincoln last year and is nearly a two-touchdown favorite for the game at Aviva Stadium in Dublin, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Northwestern, also looking to bounce back from a 3-9 season, is the home team. With temperatures forecast in the 60s, it should be ideal football weather.

“I’m looking forward to the experience,” Wildcats defensive back Cameron Mitchell said. “I’ve heard a lot of things about the food and the weather. It’s going to be interesting. But it’s a business trip. We’re going to get some revenge on Nebraska.”

The Huskers are scheduled to fly to Dublin and practice at the stadium. Shaking jetlag and getting acclimated to the six-hour time difference is the priority.

The staff has spoken with people from NFL teams that have played in London and consulted with researchers in the Nebraska Athletic Performance Lab to prepare for the trip.

“If you’ve traveled to Europe, I don’t think there is a perfect way to do it,” Frost said. “You’re not going to feel perfect when you get over there.”

Frost said it’s a delicate balance getting ready to play a game while allowing the players to enjoy the experience of visiting the Emerald Isle.

“I think it would be a mistake to go over there and have the guys’ mind on football 24/7,” Frost said. “That is when you do get tight. We’re going to try and enjoy the people and the country and when it’s time to focus I want the guys to be sharp and focused.”

All nine of Nebraska’s losses last year were by single digits, with turnovers at the worst possible times and shoddy special teams play the difference in most.

“Last year was really hard for a lot of people,” linebacker Nick Henrich said, “but we took that and learned a lot of lessons from that, and we are going to take those over to Ireland with us.”

Nebraska brought in 15 players from the transfer portal, and seven or eight likely will be starters. Among them are quarterback Casey Thompson (Texas) and defensive end Ochaun Matthis (TCU).

“Last year is last year,” tight end Travis Vokolek said. “Guys know what we need to get done this year. Obviously, we have thought about it a little bit, but we know how important this first game is. We know how important it is to start on the right track. This first game is huge.”

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.