College football notes: Arkansas AD says Sam Pittman will be back

AP photo by Michael Woods / Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman talks with an official during Saturday's home game against Florida International in Fayetteville.

Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman will return next season, athletic director Hunter Yurachek said Sunday.

The Razorbacks had high expectations this season but have posted a 4-7 record in Pittman's fourth year, including 1-6 in Southeastern Conference play. Yurachek wrote in a social media post that he told the team Saturday night that Pittman would be back.

"This has not been the season any of us anticipated," Yurachek said. "We have work to do. I am confident that together, we can meet the goals and expectations of our program."

Pittman said after the Razorbacks' 44-20 win over Florida International that speculation about his future had hurt recruiting and that some of the stories about him contained false information.

"Media has become opinions," he said. "I wish we'd post the facts, and whatever the facts are, then we can deal with it."

Pittman has a 23-24 record at Arkansas, including an 11-22 mark in SEC play, heading into Friday's home game against No. 10 Missouri (9-2, 5-2). He took over as head coach in December 2019 after a four-year stint as Georgia's offensive line coach and was tasked with reviving a program that went 2-10 in 2019.

The Razorbacks went 3-7 in 2020 before Pittman began having success. He guided Arkansas to a 9-4 finish in 2021 and a win over Penn State in the Outback Bowl, leading to a five-year contract extension.

Arkansas went 7-6 in 2022 and won the Liberty Bowl, a 55-53 triple-overtime thriller over Kansas.

The Razorbacks had hoped to take a leap forward this season with a roster that featured preseason All-SEC honorees in quarterback KJ Jefferson and running back Raheim "Rocket" Sanders.

Arkansas has been competitive but has lost several close games. The Razorbacks opened the season with victories over Western Carolina and Kent State before a run that combined bad luck with poor play.

Arkansas led BYU by 10 points in the second half before losing 38-31. The Razorbacks drove inside the BYU 20-yard line in the final minute, but the possession stalled with four penalties, including one on the final play, to end the game.

LSU, ranked 12th at the time, needed a late field goal to pull off a 34-31 home win against the Razorbacks. Arkansas gave up an interception return and a punt return for scores in a 34-22 loss to Texas A&M.

A rally came up just short in a 24-21 loss to Alabama, which was No. 11 at the time. Arkansas had just 78 yards and four first downs in a 7-3 loss to Mississippi State, and offensive coordinator Dan Enos was fired the next day.

The Razorbacks stunned Florida 39-36 in overtime on the road to snap a six-game skid before falling apart in a 48-10 loss to Auburn, then beating Florida International.

  photo  AP file photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack / Dino Babers won't be back for a ninth season as Syracuse's football coach, with the school announcing his firing Sunday with one game remaining in the regular season and the Orange in need of a sixth win to reach bowl eligibility.

Babers out as Orange coach

Syracuse fired coach Dino Babers on Sunday after eight years with the Orange that included just two bowl appearances.

Babers was 41-55 overall and 20-45 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, including a breakout season in 2018 when the Orange went 10-3 and finished No. 15 in the AP Top 25. He could never replicate that success, managing only a 7-6 record in 2022, his other winning season.

The 62-year-old Babers had only one season left on his contract, but the private school does not release terms of deals.

"I appreciate everything Dino, his wife Susan, and their family have done over the last eight years for Syracuse Athletics, Syracuse University and most importantly, our student-athletes," athletic director John Wildhack said in a statement released Sunday. "Thanks to Dino's leadership, our student-athletes have performed at the highest levels in the classroom, have dedicated countless hours to supporting our communities and have gone on to achieve great success, both professionally and personally."

The Orange dropped to 5-6 overall and 1-6 in league play on Saturday when they lost 31-22 at Georgia Tech and now need a victory next week at home against Wake Forest to get to six wins and bowl eligibility.

Tight ends coach Nunzio Campanile will serve as interim head coach for the final game.

Syracuse hired Babers away from Bowling Green in 2015 after he went 18-9 and won a Mid-American Conference championship.

Babers brought wide-open, fast-paced offense with him, but over his time in Syracuse he has had to modify his style.

Other than 2018, nothing ever really worked at a program where it has become difficult to find a formula for success. And the task hasn't gotten easier as transfer rules have loosened and players have been able to earn money off name, image and likeness deals.

Babers earlier this season lamented how Syracuse's depth had been depleted by players entering the transfer portal.

Syracuse has had only three winning seasons since joining the ACC in 2013 and five since its previous 10-win season in 2001 while in the Big East.

Apple Cup will continue

Washington and Washington State have agreed in principle to a five-year extension of the Apple Cup, ensuring the in-state rivalry betwen the Huskies and Cougars will continue through at least 2028.

The schools announced the agreement Sunday, six days before playing for the final time with both members of the Pac-12 Conference. There was uncertainty whether the game would continue, with Washington moving to the Big Ten starting next season and Washington State yet to find a permanent home for its athletic programs.

Washington, ranked No. 4 in the latest AP Top 25, will host the Cougars on Saturday in Seattle. The Huskies (11-0, 8-0) will be trying to close out their first perfect regular season since 1991 while the Cougars (5-6, 2-6) need a win for bowl eligibility.

"For more than a century, fans across the state have been circling the Apple Cup date on their calendars. We are pleased that we will be able to continue this beloved tradition for future generations of Coug fans," Kirk Schulz, Washington State's president, said in a release.

Next year's game will be played on Sept. 14 at Lumen Field, home of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks. After that, the matchup will return to the home campuses, with Washington State hosting games in Pullman in 2025 and 2027, and Washington hosting games at Husky Stadium in 2026 and 2028.

Terms of the agreement are still being finalized.

"The Apple Cup tradition is beloved by Huskies, Cougars and football fans across Washington and beyond, so one of my priorities has been to ensure that it continues into this new era," Ana Mari Cauce, Washington's president, said in the release. "I'm thrilled that we'll be able to continue this tradition, and to kick off the new era at Lumen Field before returning to each campus."

The agreement comes even as the sides are in the middle of pending litigation as Washington State and Oregon State look to keep the Pac-12 alive moving into the future.

Oregon State and Washington State won a significant legal victory Tuesday when a judge ruled that they have sole control of the Pac-12 and potentially hundreds of millions in assets, paving the way for them to move forward on clarifying their plans for conference affiliation.

The Pac-12 and departing schools, led by Washington, appealed the ruling to the state Supreme Court. The higher court on Thursday granted a temporary stay of the preliminary injunction until an emergency stay can be ruled upon.

Oregon State and Washington State have until Nov. 28 to respond.

That's a matter for the courts to decide. On the field, the agreement appears to be a win even as some in the fan base may grumble about the decision to continue the Apple Cup.

"While there is certainly passion on both sides, there is a common desire to represent the great state of Washington in the annual showdown," Washington State athletic director Pat Chun said in the release.

Seventh time around for Rising

Utah quarterback Cam Rising will return for a seventh college season after recovery from a knee injury that cost him all of this season.

Rising made the announcement Sunday with a social media post.

He led the Utes to consecutive Pac-12 titles in 2021-22 but sustained a severe knee injury in the Rose Bowl in January. Utah hoped Rising would be able to return this season, but in late October he was finally ruled out for the year.

Without him, the Utes remained competitive but have slumped recently against a difficult Pac-12 schedule. Utah has lost three of its past four games, all against ranked teams, and fell out of the AP Top 25 on Sunday for the first time since 2021.

Utah moves from the Pac-12 to the Big 12 next year.

Rising started his college career in the Big 12 at Texas in 2018 and did not play before transferring to Utah and sitting out again. He didn't play a game until the pandemic-altered 2020 season.

The NCAA allowed all football players in school during 2020 to have an extra year of eligibility. Because Rising has played more than four games only twice, he had one more season of eligibility available.

Rising threw 46 touchdown passes and ran for 12 scores in 2021-22.