New Colorado coach Deion Sanders already making an impact

deion sanders
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

BOULDER, Colorado – New Colorado coach Deion Sanders can’t yet point to any on-field wins in Boulder, but signs of a massive shift in mood and expectation abound at this school and in this city around what has been a forlorn football program.

Hired in December after a highly successful run as Jackson State’s head coach, the NFL Hall of Fame cornerback is in the midst of running practices with his new team in preparation for Colorado’s annual intrasquad spring game on April 22.

The school announced earlier this week that the game, which is also being nationally televised on ESPN, had sold out with more than 45,000 people expected to be on hand. It would stand out as the highest attendance ever for Colorado’s spring game, eclipsing the previous high of 17,800 in 2008. Indeed, according to the school, the anticipated attendance will be higher than the combined total for the previous nine spring games.

“We haven’t won a game. There’s no impact right now,” Sanders said at a news conference Saturday. “The financial aspect of what’s going on, that’s a blessing. Somebody’s profiting really well and I’m happy for that, especially this university because they deserve it. And to display and show what’s here, in your beloved city, I think that’s a beautiful thing to bring that to fruition.”

Sanders, popularly known as “Primetime” in his playing days but better known now as “Coach Prime,” said he likes the way the team is starting to mesh. He can sense the eagerness and desire among his players and the students he’s met to turn around the program.

“I can’t wait for the spring game, really looking forward to it, because I want to see the difference in the atmosphere and the feeling and the spirit of everything,” said Sanders, who is taking over a program that has had a losing record in its last six seasons, including a 1-11 finish last season.

“I spoke to the School of Business yesterday and it was phenomenal,” Sanders said. “Those kids were hungry. Every kid had a pencil and piece of paper and taking notes and they were on every darn word, every thought, everything I uttered, they were on it. They wanted it. I loved that.”

Sanders insists change has to be made by both players and fans.

“If we’re going to change the game here, that means the fans have got to change, too,” he said. “We want to impact them as well. We want them to be ready for us like we want to be ready for them.”

If his players are anything like their coach, they’ll be ready, for primetime. Sanders attended the conference wearing a cowboy hat with a gold chain and traditional coach’s whistle draped around his neck. He was asked if he would like to see some of his players, which include his son, quarterback Shedeur Sanders, take on any of his football characteristics as is sometimes wont between players and coaches.

“I hope so,” Sanders said with a smile. “God, I hope so. That’s what I want. That’s what I’m looking for.”

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.