Bo Nix hoping to improve on last season with Oregon

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EUGENE, Ore. – Bo Nix has settled in at Oregon, ready for a better outcome in his final year with the Ducks.

The senior quarterback was getting Heisman buzz for a time last season before he got injured and the Ducks derailed.

“This year we’ve got to start over, go back when we get in fall camp, get into the season, just continue to work to finish those games and make that next step,” he said.

And that next step? Winning championships, he said.

Nix is among a large group of experienced returning quarterbacks in the Pac-12, joining Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams of USC, Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., Washington State’s Cameron Ward and Arizona’s Jayden de Laura. Utah’s Cam Rising could also be on track to start for the Utes after an ACL injury.

The return of Nix, along with backup Ty Thompson, bodes well for the Duck.

Nix finished with 29 touchdown passes, 14 rushing scores and one TD catch in 13 games last season after transferring to Oregon from Auburn. He threw just seven interceptions and finished with an Oregon-record 71.9 completion percentage. His rushing touchdowns were just one shy of Marcus Mariota‘s single-season record.

There were questions about whether he’d be back for his final year of eligibility, but Oregon announced his return before defeating North Carolina 28-27 in the Holiday Bowl.

Oregon, which finished 10-3 last season, was considered a possible playoff contender but an eight-game winning streak was snapped in a 37-34 loss to Washington on Nov. 12. Nix injured his right ankle in that game and struggled with it the rest of the way.

The Ducks still had hopes of a Pac-12 title but they were thwarted by a loss to Oregon State. Oregon ended the season ranked No. 15.

“I just felt like last year we would have finished at times better, and that’s something that going into this year we need to do,” Nix said. “We were in a great spot last year and then didn’t finish. So this year our goal is to be the best we can be. And one of my personal goals is to win a championship.”

Nix, an Arkansas native and former five-star recruit, started the first 34 games of his career at Auburn.

He’s grown into a leadership role while at Oregon, coach Dan Lanning said following the Ducks’ spring game Saturday.

Oregon was the last Pac-12 team to stage a spring game this season. The Ducks then wrapped up spring practice on Monday.

“Just the ability to be vocal and know that he doesn’t have to wait for somebody to say, ‘Hey go ahead say it, right?’” Lanning said. “He’s willing to do that and he’s done a good job of that.”

Nix said he’s more comfortable.

“A lot more comfortable,” he said. “Just because another year, I know everybody much better and I know where everything is, I know what time and the schedule is set for. You get to meet a lot of new faces and meet a lot of new people. Everybody’s kind of looking at me now so it’s important that I take being comfortable and use it in a good way.”

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

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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.