No. 10 USC’s talented trio of runners has more to show

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES — No. 10 Southern California has a three-headed monster at running back that showed its face in the season opener.

Former Stanford rusher Austin Jones had two touchdown scampers, ex-Oregon tailback Travis Dye thrived at pass protection, and freshman Raleek Brown showed off his athleticism. Together, they combined for 186 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries and six receptions in their debut.

“We all have our part to do in this offense, and it speaks volumes on the coaches on actually put into places where the pieces fit,” Dye said. “For one game, it just worked perfectly. We were meshing really well.”

USC coach Lincoln Riley acknowledged the trio’s workload was deflated by three interceptions that were returned for touchdowns by USC (1-0) in its 66-14 win over Rice.

“It wasn’t as we planned,” Riley said. “I mean, love it. I’d take it every week.”

More touches are likely to come at Stanford (1-0), a Pac-12 opener.

While Jones downplayed the significance of facing a team that he spent three seasons with before transferring, Dye said he can already sense a different level of intensity from the senior.

“Oh, he’s definitely antsy this week,” Dye said. “Definitely antsy and he wants to get after it, and I can’t wait to watch him play against his own guys.”

After facing stacked boxes in Stanford’s power run game, Jones showed he could make the most of the space created by Riley’s spread offense on a 28-yard touchdown run. He finished with 48 yards on four carries and had one catch for 21 yards.

“It was definitely a lot more daylight,” Jones said.

Dye was held out of the end zone but more than made up for it with two punishing hits as a blocker. He put a defensive end on roller skates to allow Caleb Williams to step up in the pocket and complete a 29-yard pass on third down, and Dye followed it up by leveling that same defender on a chip block as he went out on his route.

“He’s showing all these ribs, you know, and I had to get me some baby back ribs real quick,” Dye said. “Slap some barbecue sauce on that real quick, but, yeah, just all my might right into his side.”

Dye, who had 21 yards receiving and 20 yards rushing, credits his growth in pass protection to working with assistant coach Kiel McDonald.

“You got to protect our team if you want to stay on the field, and that’s just what the job is,” Dye said.

The most exhilarating showing came from Brown, who pulled away from a defender for his first collegiate touchdown in addition to a slippery 40-yard catch-and-run.

Brown practiced with his ankle wrapped, but Riley does not believe the injury will keep Brown from playing.

Riley first took note of the 5-foot-8, 185-pound dynamo at a summer camp when he was coaching at Oklahoma. Jalen Hurts was the Sooners quarterback at the time, and he and Riley had the same reaction watching Brown.

“Jalen was hoping we could sign him then, and Jalen was disappointed when I told him he was a freshman in high school, and to this day Jalen still asks me about him. So, yeah, we got a pretty early introduction, and he just put on a show,” Riley said. “You could tell, athletically, he was a little bit different.”

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.