Transfer exodus at Colorado unprecedented in portal era

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Deion Sanders arrived at Colorado in December with much fanfare and a blunt message to Buffaloes players who had just endured a 1-11 season under the previous coaching regime.

Be ready to transfer, the new head coach told them in his first team meeting.

“We got a few positions already taken care of because I’m bringing my own luggage with me,” Sanders said. “And it’s Louis, OK.”

Does Louis Vuitton sell in bulk?

Colorado has had a total of 52 scholarship players enter the transfer portal in the five months since the Pro Football Hall of Famer was hired away from Jackson State. The pace picked up rapidly last month.

The spring transfer period in college football closed with 43 scholarship players — the equivalent of half a roster — from Sanders’ program having entered the portal since more than 40,000 fans showed up at Folsom Field in Boulder for Colorado’s spring game on April 15.

It is unprecedented turnover in this new era of loosened transfer rules, and almost double that total of the next largest number of players entering the portal among the 11 Power Five programs with a new head coach.

Arizona State is next with 27 scholarships players entering the portal since coach Kenny Dillingham was hired Nov. 27. The Sun Devils had 11 players jump in the portal during the spring window, which ran from April 15-30.

Nebraska has had 23 scholarship players enter the portal since Matt Rhule was hired the day after Thanksgiving.

At the other end, Stanford had 13 players, all graduates, go into the portal after former coach David Shaw resigned, but only three more have entered since coach Troy Taylor was hired Dec. 10.

“There is a strong climate of people come in to try to push as many guys as they can out,” Taylor said. “I did not do that at Sacramento State. I didn’t even attempt to do it here at Stanford. We take what we got, we make it better.”

The deadline for undergraduate players to notify their schools they intend to transfer and be eligible next season passed, but new names were still trickling into the portal as paperwork was being processed.

Players still have time before next season to find a new school, though most teams – other than Colorado – don’t have many available spots. Graduate students can enter the portal after the window closes and be immediately eligible next season.

Transfers in major college football have skyrocketed since the NCAA two years ago removed its rule mandating undergraduates sit out a season after switching schools. A one-time exception for immediate eligibility had been available to athletes in other sports, but not high-profile ones such as basketball, baseball and football.

The names of 2,090 Football Bowl Subdivision football players were in the portal, according to the NCAA. The number of FBS players who have entered the portal during the 2022-23 academic year and found a new school is 1,055.

At Colorado, nine scholarship players went into the portal between when Sanders was hired and the start of the spring transfer period.

“I didn’t kick ’em out; they walked out,” Sanders told reporters after the spring game. But he made clear the next wave of players heading into the portal would include some being pushed out of the program.

“We’ve got to make some decisions,” Sanders said. “That’s going to be on me now.”

As the NCAA defends itself against a federal lawsuit and actions by the National Labor Relations Board seek to give college athletes employee status, Sanders’ roster flip has given fresh ammunition to those trying to dismantle the collegiate amateurism model.

“Sanders is in the process of firing half his team, kicking them off their scholarships because they aren’t performing. That’s employment,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) tweeted.

NCAA rules require schools to honor a scholarship if an athlete is essentially cut from the team by a new coach but chooses to remain with the school. That scholarship, however, does not count against the team’s limit of 85 in the FBS.

Southern California used that rule as part of its roster overhaul after Lincoln Riley was hired in November 2021. USC had 23 scholarship players hit the portal from the day after Riley was hired through early June 2022. USC began last season with 38 new players, including 20 from the portal.

NCAA limits on the number of new players a school can sign in a calendar year were also changed last year so coaches can replace players transferring out.

By the time Sanders is done, he could have more than 70 new players on the roster. According to 247 Sports, Colorado already has 35 portal transfers signed or committed to go with a signing class of 20 high school recruits and junior college transfers.

Former Florida State defensive back Omarion Cooper, a former four-star recruit who has played sparingly in two seasons with the Seminoles, was among the latest to jump on board.

“Let’s make history,” Cooper tweeted.

When it comes to college football roster makeovers, Sanders and Colorado already have.

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.