CFP expansion ‘not finished,’ still working toward 12 in 2024

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DALLAS — The third in-person meeting of conference commissioners who manage the College Football Playoff since an August directive from their bosses to expand the postseason format ended without a resolution, but not without optimism.

“There’s a will to try and that will is still there,” Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey said Thursday.

The CFP management committee, comprised of 10 major college football conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director, met for six hours at an airport hotel to work on a plan to triple the number of playoff teams from four to 12 for the 2024 season.

“We’re not finished,” CFP Executive Director Bill Hancock said. “It is true that time is not on our side, but we haven’t given ourselves a deadline. It’s more important to get the work done right.”

Hancock said the management committee plans to meet again soon, likely by video conference, but did not have an exact day.

The task is tricky because the postseason schedule is already set for the 2024 and ’25 seasons based on the current four-team format. The College Football Playoff’s 12-year deal with ESPN expires following the 2025 season.

“We put a calendar on the wall. We want to make sure we’re aware of holidays, NFL game days. Commencements,” Hancock said, ticking off some of the items the CFP needs to consider.

The job now is to add four first-round games to be played in mid-December on the campuses of the better-seeded teams and figure out the best days to play them.

From there the quarterfinals will be played on and around New Year’s Day, with the semifinals about a week after that and the championship at least another week later.

“I’d suggest to you each round has some interesting issues around them,” Mid-American Conference Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said. “And depending on where you put the pin in one week, it moves where that next set of things goes and then what are you bumping up into that week? Whether it’s access to certain stadiums, NFL games that could be playing, rest periods. So they’re all interconnected.”

American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco said: “Spacing the games is crucial. You can’t have (a team) having way more rest than somebody else.”

Hancock said Atlanta and Miami, which were chosen as host cities for the 2024 and ’25 championship games in a four-team format, have indicated they will be able to accommodate the games on a later date.

This time last year the management committee was in the midst of seven months of haggling over whether to expand and how frustrations growing with every meeting. This year there are no dissenters in the group. Just logistics that need to be sorted out.

“It’s been a fascinating process because every time you turn over one stone you start tripping other issues,” Steinbrecher said. “And it’s more challenging than I would maybe have imagined. But we’re getting there.”

The university presidents who oversee the CFP took control of the process this last summer, approved a 12-team expansion plan that was first unveiled in May 2021 and directed the commissioners to make it happen by 2024, if possible, and 2026 at the latest.

Expanding the playoff early could be worth an additional $450 million in gross revenue from media rights in 2024 and ’25 for the schools that compete in major college football.

“At some point, you have to fish or cut bait to get this done,” Aresco said. “And we kind of have a sense of where we’re going to have to make those decisions. And we’re better informed in terms of the information we got today and a lot of the things we talked about.”

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

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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.