Georgia’s proud defense looking to bounce back against TCU


ATLANTA — Georgia’s proud defense has allowed a combined 71 points in its two postseason games, including the 42-41 last-minute win over Ohio State in the College Football Playoff semifinal.

Even against stiff competition in the postseason, when higher-scoring games can be expected, that’s a humbling and somewhat shocking development for No. 1 Georgia (14-0) as it heads into the national championship game against No. 3 TCU (13-1).

The Bulldogs, who led the nation in scoring defense while winning the last season’s national championship and ranked second entering this postseason, aren’t accustomed to giving up so many points.

“We didn’t play our best game,” defensive back Javon Bullard said. “But there’s a whole lot we can fix … communication and things like that, just the basic things like that, knowing your leverage, talking. I know we’ve got to talk better throughout the secondary.”

Now come the Horned Frogs, who average 41.1 points per game to rank fifth in the nation following a 51-45 win over Michigan in the Fiesta Bowl semifinal.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart may be bracing for yet another shootout. He said he had no quick explanation for the lack of defense in the CFP semifinals, which saw 179 points combined.

“I don’t know how to pinpoint it,” Smart said. “I don’t know. Traditionally, the teams that are in these games, they’re pretty good offensively. You’d like to say they’re also pretty good defensively, but I think the studies and numbers indicate that as the season goes on and especially the semifinal and final games, scoring has to be going up.”

Even after having five defensive players selected in the first round of last spring’s NFL draft, Georgia’s defense was strong again during the season. The Bulldogs allowed a combined 64 points in their first seven games; five games had 10 or fewer points allowed, including two shutouts.

Thanks to that, Georgia’s defense still ranks near the top of the national leaders. After leading the nation with its average of 10.2 points allowed last season, Georgia ranks fifth at 14.8. Georgia is 11th with 304.6 yards allowed per game.

Georgia had to play several freshmen late against Ohio State. Outside linebacker became a position of concern after Nolan Smith‘s season-ending pectoral injury against Florida on Oct. 29. The position took another hit against Ohio State when Chaz Chambliss needed help leaving the field with an apparent left knee injury.

Among freshmen who played on defense last week were starting safety Malaki Starks, defensive end Mykel Williams and linebacker Jalon Walker.

Smart said the freshmen “didn’t actually do what they were supposed to do every play” and he hopes to have all his injured players back for TCU.

“We don’t make excuses around here and talk about injuries and these problems, but we’ve had our fair share,” Smart said. “And nobody feels sorry for us and don’t want anybody to. But we have to get those guys ready to play at a higher level.”

Georgia beat LSU 50-30 in the Southeastern Conference championship game, allowing 502 passing yards. Then Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud passed for 348 yards and four touchdowns against the Bulldogs..

“We finished the job and did what we had to do,” linebacker Smael Mondon said after the game. “We didn’t play our best game and know we’ll have to play a lot better. We have to go finish the drill.”

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.