Carson Beck closes Georgia spring as QB leader, but not yet winner

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 17 Georgia at South Carolina
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ATHENS, Ga. – Carson Beck closed Georgia’s spring practice as the leader, but not yet the winner, of the quarterback competition.

Beck is at the front of the line to replace Stetson Bennett, who led Georgia to back-to-back national championships for the first time in school history. Beck opened Saturday’s G-Day scrimmage with the first-team offense, closing the Bulldogs’ spring practice schedule as the favorite – but not yet the starter.

“I’d say I’m content with the way I attacked and performed through the spring and approached the competition side of it,” Beck said.

Brock Vandagriff also had snaps with the No. 1 offense Saturday and throughout the spring. Gunner Stockton is the third contender.

Coach Kirby Smart said he’d have to review tape from the scrimmage before evaluating the performances. Smart said Beck, a junior, earned the first opportunity with the starters on Saturday because “he’s had the most practice reps.”

Beck was Bennett’s backup the last two seasons. He showed good accuracy, completing 15 of 22 passes for 231 yards and one touchdown, in the scrimmage. Vandagriff passed for two touchdowns and had a 23-yard run.

“I think I put together a pretty good spring,” Vandagriff said. “… It’s a good, healthy competition between us two. You want to see the other guy do well.”

Beck acknowledged it hasn’t been easy to spend most of his time on the sideline the last three years, including a redshirt season, waiting for this opportunity. Georgia’s runaway wins during its undefeated 2022 season provided opportunities for Beck (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) to play behind Bennett in seven games and complete 26 of 35 passes for 310 yards and four touchdowns.

“Obviously it’s really difficult and I think it’s difficult for anybody when you come out of high school,” Beck said last week. “Really everybody who has come here has had to sit. We’re all four-star and five-star guys here and we’ve had a ton of them, but there have been a lot of guys who have had to sit and I’m sure every one of them would agree with me that it’s very difficult.”

Vandagriff (6-3, 205) was a hometown recruit from Prince Avenue Christian School in Athens. He said he considers himself to be a drop-back quarterback, even though he was rated among the top dual-threat players in his high school class.

Bennett recently showed off his arm strength by firing a fastball when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Atlanta Braves’ home opener. He was a former walk-on at Georgia who had an unusual wait, having to transfer before returning to play on the scout team and finally capitalizing on his chance.

Bennett again hopes to surprise experts who project he will be a late-round pick in the NFL draft, which begins on April 27. Bennett and other 2022 seniors posed with their national championship rings on the field during the scrimmage.

Georgia’s changes on offense this spring have included what Smart described as “an easy transition” to Mike Bobo as offensive coordinator after Todd Monken was hired to lead the Baltimore Ravens’ offense.

NOTES: DL Bear Alexander, a sophomore, entered the transfer portal. He had two tackles for losses and a sack in the national championship win over TCU. “That’s the way of the world,” said Smart of players who are “looking for greener pastures. … More power to them.” … Georgia unveiled its new mascot in its long line of solid white English bulldogs. Que, who was Uga X, is retiring with a 91-18 record. The 10-month-old Boom was introduced as Uga XI. … Georgia took a deliberate delay of game penalty before the first play to honor former offensive lineman Devin Willock and Chandler LeCroy, a 24-year-old recruiting staffer, who were killed in a car wreck on Jan. 15, hours after a parade and national championship celebration.


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.