Spencer Rattler’s return, new OC bring hope to South Carolina offense

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler needed answers before deciding his football future. He got all the right ones from his teammates and new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains that led to Rattler sticking around for another season.

Rattler’s path seemed clear when he transferred from Oklahoma to the Gamecocks after the 2021 season. The strong-armed passer who led the Sooners to a Big 12 championship would polish things up before setting off for the NFL.

Turns out Rattler’s late-season flourish with top-10 victories over Tennessee and Clemson left him wanting to achieve even more in college.

“I felt like we left some things on the table,” said Rattler, who will conclude what’s expected to be his final spring college workouts at the annual Garnet-and-Black game.

Not that Rattler didn’t need a few facts before making his return official. Marcus Satterfield, the attack’s coordinator the past two years, headed to Nebraska for a similar position. Receiver Antwane “Juice” Wells Jr., who led the team with 68 catches for 928 yards and six touchdown grabs, was strongly considering going pro.

But the Gamecocks hired Arkansas assistant and longtime NFL offensive coordinator Loggains to lead the offense and Wells, like Rattler, wanted to play another year in college.

“We could’ve both taken that next step to the next level and been OK,” Rattler said this spring. “I think coming back was the right decision.”

Every South Carolina supporter would agree, particularly with how the team closed the regular season. The Gamecocks were a so-so 6-4 and coming off a demoralizing 38-6 loss at Florida in mid-November where the offense managed just 237 yards of offense and 11 first downs.

The next two weeks, though, the Gamecocks ended the College Football Playoff chances of fifth-ranked Tennessee and No. 8 Clemson.

Rattler combined for 798 yards and eight touchdowns in the two victories, and Wells had 20 receptions for 301 yards, including a 72-yard scoring catch at Clemson in a 31-30 win that helped the Gamecocks end their seven-game losing streak in the rivalry.

“It was a tough decision,” Wells said about going pro. “Trying to figure what my quarterback was going to do, who’s going to be the OC, what type of offense we’re going to run. But everything came together and I’m happy to be here.”

So is Loggains, who spent the past two seasons as Arkansas’ tight ends coach. Before that, he was offensive coordinator for four NFL teams. Retaining Rattler and Wells were among Loggains’ biggest priorities and he loves what he’s seen so far this spring.

Loggains has studied what Rattler did well at South Carolina and at Oklahoma, and he brings things up to Rattler that the quarterback is eager to work into the offense.

Loggains has offensive questions to figure out, particularly at running back, where the top two rushers from last year in MarShawn Lloyd (573 yards, nine touchdowns) and Jaheim Bell (263 yards, three TDs) both transferred. Lloyd went to Southern Cal land Bell to Florida State.

What doesn’t seem to be a question, at least for coach Shane Beamer, is Rattler’s poise as a leader now compared with a year ago.

“Last year he came in at this time, and he wasn’t really trying to impose his will and force his leadership on you. He was trying to earn their respect and earn a role and and go from there,” Beamer said. “Now everybody knows what he can do and what he’s done here at (South) Carolina, and it’s very clearly his team. It’s very clearly his offense.”

Wells sees it, too.

“Spencer is loose,” Wells said. “He’s reminding me of the last two games of last year. He’s loose, he’s confident, he’s happy.”

All of which could mean big things for South Carolina’s offense.

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.