Kansas State hoping Deuce Vaughn leads the way to top of Big 12

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

MANHATTAN, Kan. — Kansas State coach Chris Klieman likes to tell a story from late April or early May, back when his program was conducting a youth football camp, and he found himself watching running back Deuce Vaughn sign autographs for kids.

“We had a session that ended at 11:30 and the autographs were 11:30 to 12:00, and then there was a break for the players,” Klieman recalled with a smile. “As you can imagine, Deuce’s line was really, really long, and he stayed out there for an extra hour signing for every kid that was there, and taking pictures.”

Klieman paused for a moment, then added: “He knows the gig.”

It comes with stardom.

Vaughn is perhaps the most important player for a Kansas State team many have pegged as a dark-horse contender for the Big 12 championship. He was third in the league in rushing last season behind Baylor’s Abram Smith and Iowa State’s Breece Hall, both of whom are now making their way in the NFL, and is a preseason All-American as an all-purpose player.

“Yeah, the kid is talented,” Klieman said, “but it just doesn’t happen. It’s doing all the little things on the field, off the field, in the classroom, in the community, in the weight room, in the rehab center so that you have your body at the very best, and then doing it with an absolute smile on your face no matter what.”

The path to greatness was never a sure thing for the player associate head coach Van Malone calls “Mr. Electric.”

Coming out of Cedar Ridge High School in Round Rock, Texas, Vaughn was largely overlooked by most major programs, which tends to happen when you’re a (generously listed) 5-foot-7 prospect. It didn’t matter that Vaughn had piled up yards and touchdowns like cords of firewood.

Missouri offered him a scholarship. So did Arkansas and South Florida. And if he was interested in a military career, he would have been happily accepted at the Air Force Academy and West Point.

Otherwise, his best chance to play Division I football came from Kansas State.

Turns out he had a blueprint to follow.

Back when Vaughn was just a tot, a similarly built dynamo drove south from Iowa and spent the next four years terrorizing the Big 12. Darren Sproles proceeded to rewrite just about every rushing record at Kansas State, finishing fifth in Heisman Trophy voting as a junior and then parlaying his senior year into a career in the NFL, where he would spend 15 years.

“I will say that ever since I was little,” Vaughn said, “I always looked at the All-American status of players, and you see all these big names and he was an All-American. He was one of the best in the nation, and that was something I always wanted to do whenever I got to this level. So to be able to achieve that is astonishing.”

Quickly earning the starting job, Vaughn ran for 642 yards and seven scores while catching 25 passes for 434 yards and two more, giving Kansas State fans a reason to celebrate amid a 4-6 record during the pandemic.

He gave them reasons on a weekly basis last season. Vaughn ran for 1,404 yards and 18 touchdowns, caught 49 passes for 468 yards and four more touchdowns, and helped the Wildcats go 8-5 with a Texas Bowl win over LSU.

Vaughn ran for 146 yards against the Tigers – his sixth straight 100-yard game – and scored four TDs in all.

He won’t have to wait long to begin making a national impression this season, either.

After the Wildcats open with South Dakota on Sept. 3, they face former Big 12 rival-turned-SEC nemesis Missouri. Then, after a tune-up against Tulane, they visit ninth-ranked Oklahoma for an early conference showdown.

“It’s the work ethic that you see with Deuce,” Klieman said. “I think everybody feeds off of his work ethic, whether it’s on the field, in the classroom, in the film room, in the weight room. The kid works so hard. And then you have your younger players watching arguably your best football player put the work in on a daily basis in all these areas.”

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.