Walters begins Purdue tenure by promising points, defense

Ryan Walters
USA Today

New Purdue coach Ryan Walters first flexed his muscle by giving walk-on running back Devin Mockobee a scholarship.

Then he promised to keep the Boilermakers’ reputation intact – as the Cradle of Quarterbacks and the Den of Defensive Ends.

The 36-year-old Walters said Wednesday that he envisions putting together a program that scores in bunches, stops the run and routinely harasses opposing quarterbacks.

“On offense, we will be creative,” he said in his introductory news conference. “We will be explosive in the air and on the ground. We will be strategically aggressive, and we will put points on the board and we will put them up in bunches. On defense, you already know how we get down. It’s going to be organized chaos from whistle to snap.”

Walters’ deviates from Purdue’s traditional practice of hiring offensive-minded coaches. He’s the first defensive coach to lead the Boilermakers since Leon Burtnett in 1982.

The former high school quarterback and Illinois defensive coordinator certainly understands the school’s legacy. He dreamed of following Drew Brees, from Rose Bowl parade to the NFL.

When those plans changed, the 25-year-old Walters joined the Arizona staff as the youngest Power Five position coach. He quickly rose through the ranks with stops at Oklahoma, North Texas, Memphis and Missouri before Illinois coach Bret Bielema hired him as defensive coordinator in 2021.

Now the architect of one of this season’s top defenses plans to build on the momentum Jeff Brohm created before taking the job at his alma mater, Louisville, last week. The university’s board of trustees still must approve the proposed five-year contract for the fifth-youngest coach in the Bowl Subdivision.

Meanwhile, the Boilermakers’ bowl plans remain unchanged. Brohm’s younger brother, Brian, and co-defensive coordinator Mark Hagen will be calling plays in the Jan. 2 Citrus Bowl against No. 17 LSU while Walters watches practices, hires assistants, recruits and starts preparing for next season with players such as Mockobee, the record-setting freshman runner.

Athletic director Mike Bobinski and outgoing university president Mitch Daniels believe it’s a home-run hire.

“Seven days ago, I didn’t think I could feel worse,” Daniels said. “As of the last 72 hours, I couldn’t feel better for all the reasons Mike just outlined and you just personified.”

Still, questions remain.

Bobinski noted that Walters prefers to keep the traits of his trademark defense as secretive as the recipe for Coca-Cola, and Walters did nothing to dispel the notion by even declining to describe the scheme he prefers. And while he does intend to hire a defensive coordinator, Walters plans to be making the play calls.

And now, for the first time in his career, his decisions will be the final word.

Mockobee is the first to profit from that final say.

“I thought he was in the upper echelon of the running backs we had faced or were going to face this past season,” Walters said of Mockobee. “I found out he was not on scholarship, and you know, now I’m like, `Shoot, this guy needs a scholarship’ and I’m reminding myself like, `Well, yeah, you’re the head coach, so you can do that.”‘

Georgia extends contract for AD Josh Brooks, plans two new football practice fields

1 Comment

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.