Barta meets the press

Tom Kakert, Editor
Hawkeye Report

Opening Statement

I thought I would give you a little summer look-in on today.

First of all, whenever we lose a member of the Hawkeyes family, we start there. Bobby Elliott is somebody that I didn’t work with, but I had a chance to get to know him. Every time I was with him you could see he was a great person and a great coach. If you talk to his former players, they loved him. We lost a good one and thoughts and prayers go out to Bump and the whole Elliott family.

Switching gears to momentum. We have a lot of spring and summer momentum. We had a lot of great things with our spring sports. Baseball was well documented with their Big Ten Tournament championship for the first time ever. They have great momentum and they will head on their summer visit overseas.

Then some of the other programs like track and field with Joey Woody and his program. They had a great showing at the Drake Relays and they were 17th in the NCAA’s which is one of our best showings. They had multiple All Americans. Then one that maybe get noticed as much, our rowing program. They returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 16 years, so lots of momentum there. With football recruiting, there’s lots of momentum there. You can feel that in the current class as well as the classes moving forward. Men’s and women’s basketball, along with wrestling, kind of young up and coming momentum. I feel really good about all those things.

Academically, we had a 3.0 spring GPA and we are very excited about that. Above the general student population and all-time record for graduation rate. We are still going off of last October’s numbers because this year’s numbers aren’t in and it looks like we are going to break another record. Our student-athletes are doing very well in the classroom.

In fundraising, we had an all-time record year. Between cash received and pledges, we had over 48 million in fundraising activity. That is by far the most we have had in our history. Hawkeye fans continue to support the program at record levels.

Facility wise, the Kinnick north end zone is an 89 million dollar project. The turf is sort of step one and you have seen that it is getting close to being completed and there is a lot of excitement around that. It’s an 89 million dollar project, all of which will be funded by athletic department revenues, with $25 million of it funded by a campaign, Kinnick Edge, and we have received $13 million in commitments towards that. We are a little over halfway with two more years to go and we feel good about the progress and the excitement there.

The Gerdin Learning Center, the Gerdin family made the original gift to build it and it’s been an unbelievable asset to our student-athletes and their academic pursuits. That was 13 or 14 years ago, so it was time for a refresher to expand and that will begin this month. They will move out and we will start construction and will be open for use in the spring. Then we go to the Board of Regents in August for a Finkbine Clubhouse. I don’t know how many of you play golf, but Finkbine is a great golf course and the clubhouse was built in the 60’s and it doesn’t match the beauty of the golf course. We feel confident about that.

Related to all those things and the 48 million that I mentioned in fundraising activity, we are going to have a series of really exciting announcements about some big gifts that have been coming forward this summer. We will be announcing those in the weeks to come.

On the challenging side, let’s just face the Jane Meyer verdict. I don’t think I’ve seen or spoken to most of you since the Jane Meyer trial concluded. Obviously when we made our decisions, we felt like we were in the right. The jury decision was not what we expected or wanted, but we are moving forward. All of the 6.5 million dollar settlement was paid through athletics. No state funds. No university funds. It came out of our reserve fund, so it won’t affect the day to day operations of our sports teams, our student-athletes, or our coaches.

The HR review that President Harrold had mentioned isn’t yet underway, but I know he is working through that process. We welcome it and we don’t have any concerns, specifically. I look at it as an opportunity to see where can we continue to get better, not just athletics, but as a university.

Then finally, my observation in the time that I have been here since 2006, the mood and the culture of our staff, student-athletes, and coaches has never been better. Those are just a few things that I thought I would mention and I am happy to answer any questions.

Q: How much of the settlement was paid through insurance?

BARTA: None. The university is state insured, self-insured, but in this case it was determined that the athletic department would pay the entire amount. So it came out of the reserve.

Q: When you look back, are there mistakes you made and regret?

BARTA: I won’t talk about anything specifically, but I will tell you, and I have had a lot of time to think about it the last few years, in principle, I am very confident in the decisions that we made and that I made. Tactically, I think you can always think of things that you could have improved upon. From a principle standpoint, we felt like we made the right decisions, which is why we went to court. Obviously we ended up with a result that we didn’t expect or want.

Q: Why did you decide to settle with Tracy and then with Jane?

BARTA: It was just decided. Did we want to go through an appeals process and a federal court lawsuit filed by Jane and then another trial with Tracy? We just decided for the mood, culture, and the benefit of the department and the university that it was just time to move forward.

Q: Are you concerned that this will impact your ability to hire coaches in the future?

BARTA: No, I’m not. We have hired a few assistant coaches since then and when I have met with those coaches I’ve offered to talk about it and there have been zero concerns to this point.

Q: How do you feel about your job security through all this?

BARTA: I always look at job security as a day to day situation in my job. I sort of jokingly say that. President Harrold has been behind me 100% since he took the job. He knew when he took this job about this situation. He talked to a lot of people about it to find out what happened and how it happened. He has been supportive from day one.

Q: With using the reserve funds, how does that impact the department?

BARTA: It depletes the reserve fund quite a bit. The reserve fund is there for unexpected circumstances. It doesn’t impact our operating budget as we move forward in 2017-18 for our student-athletes and coaches.

Q: Publically, you have been accused of being a bigot. How do you wrestle with that?

BARTA: Not just in this decision, but in every decision I make, I work in a job that is very public. So, I think all of you watch and see through social media, just about every decision we make and I make is criticized at some level. I have to develop a thick skin. I always go back to the principle of our decisions. If we make decisions based on strong principles and are done for the right reasons and do it with integrity, I expect criticism, not just in this case, and I just have to know that I sleep well at night knowing I did the best with the information that I have. I’m not going to lie and say that the last few months were easy because they were difficult, but I go back to I still stand by the decisions we made. Tactically could we have done some things differently? Possibly. In terms of values and integrity, I feel very comfortable with the decision we made and now we are just moving forward.

Q: Was there any moment where you considered resigning?


Q: Was any of the criticism warranted?

BARTA: I don’t know what specifically you were asking about? Again, I made the decisions and it wasn’t in a vacuum. All the decisions we made were with input from the Attorney General’s office, the President’s office, and HR. People can be critical of everything we do, but at the end of the day we stand by the decisions we made.

Q: Do you look back on it now and say I should have seen this coming?

BARTA: In hindsight, tactically you can think of I can always think of things. I am far from perfect. I tell my staff, you are going to mistakes every day. I make mistakes every day. As long as you put them on the table, you did them with integrity, and didn’t lie about it, then we will move forward. That’s how I feel about these decisions as well. At this point you learn from whatever you can from, like the HR review. If we learn anything from that review, tactically, that we improve upon, we will. We are really moving on. I can’t empathize this enough, I’ve been here since 2006, with our coaches, student-athletes, and administrators and our mood and our culture has never been better since I’ve been here. That tells me a lot about where we are headed.

Q: Are there changes you have made now?

BARTA: Over the last three or four years we have changed some things. Would they have changed based on these decisions, I don’t know. I think nationally the culture has changed. If you look at what’s happening with student-athletes and social media, so we are making those types of changes. Nothing has changed tactically or otherwise since the decision.

Now, since that time, Gene Taylor, who was hired to be the athletic director at Kansas State and I am very happy for him, I moved Barbara Burke up and that was by design. I knew Gene would be leaving at some point and I moved her up. Then we hired a gentleman by the name of Marcus Wilson and he took the senior associate job that Barbara was in. Some changes have occurred, but they make us better and stronger. That’s not a dig at Gene at all. When I hired Barbara, she had been an AD and my deputy AD at Wyoming. That transition has been seamless. Soon you will meet Marcus Wilson, who just started this week. So far he hasn’t screwed this up too badly and he’s going to be a great addition.

Q: When you reassigned Jane Meyer, you did it with a recommendation. Looking back would you have done something differently? How will you take advice from the attorney general’s office moving forward?

BARTA: I have spent a lot of time thinking about the principles and values of the decisions that I stand behind. I have thought of various tactically that I might do differently, but I am not going to break down those things specifically, either way.

Q: What is the status of the Title 9 investigation from the Department of Education?

BARTA: They left here a year and a half ago and there really hasn’t been any updates. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but we haven’t heard anything from them other than a few follow-up questions that were pretty basic.

Q: You kind of touched on it, but you have a lot of confidence from your coaches. Does that help you moving forward?

BARTA: Absolutely. I talk to colleagues across the country all the time and when they see how long Lisa Bluder has been here, Kirk Ferentz, Tom Brands and Fran is the new kid going into I think his eighth season. Iowa has had that consistency in leadership and I think that’s a valuable asset for us.

Q: Does there have to be a PR effort to make people believe that you don’t have this culture issue that was painted?

BARTA: Here’s how I approach was you called PR, nothing I can say today can probably change a person’s mind. If you look at my time, specifically in the last 11 years, I think I have proven to those around me they know who I am and how I do things. Same thing for the department. We don’t have a PR campaign to get through this. We are going to live off of the time tested decisions that we have made. When I’ve had discussions with some of the assistant coaches that we have hired this summer, they know who we are, who Iowa is, and they did their research on who I am. Again, other than the very focused attention that this received here and not as much nationally, there hasn’t been a single person who was concerned about coming to work for us.

Barbara Burke is a great example. She worked with me in Wyoming. She knew exactly who I am and what I stand for and came here excited to be part of our program. When I asked her to step into the deputy AD job, she couldn’t wait. She happens to be a female and it was a non-issue.

We aren’t going to launch some sort of campaign. We are going to earn the trust by what we do every day.

Q: On an important note, the Tigerhawk in now at midfield. Any chance it also ends up on the water tower?

BARTA: So, I was fully in control of what went on the football field. I have zero input and control over what goes on the water tower. If I had a vote, I’d say let’s put it up there.

Q: Some of the budgets from other Big Ten schools have come out. The outside TV revenues are projecting over 50 million with the new deals in place. Is that your projection now?

BARTA: I don’t remember the exact number, but it’s around 50. That includes the Big Ten money, ABC, Fox and if you back up a few years, we knew a number like that was going to be coming. So, that’s why we did things like the Gerdin Learning Center, Kinnick north end zone, and now Finkbine. The other thing that we have done in anticipation of that money coming is we have been hiring more athletic trainers, a full time nutritionist, a sports psychologist, and we added cost of attendance to our budget. We added food and we are now spending close to 2 million more in that area now than we used to. Knowing that money was coming and feeling confident that it was coming, we pretty much spent it already in advance, but in a thoughtful way.

Q: Are you concerned that down the road when the next contract comes that the money might not be there?

BARTA: If you look at our budget, it’s now about 50 million in TV revenue. It’s about 25 million in ticket revenue. I said 48 million in cash and pledges, but cash wise if that’s another 25 million a year. A few years ago when the TV revenues exceeded tickets, you have to be thoughtful about relying on one particular revenue source. Beyond that, while I see the world of TV might change and how it’s delivered might change, I think the fact is fans around the country still love the content. However the content is delivered and monetized, I think the Big Ten is in a great position to move towards that in the next 10 to 20 years. I don’t stay up at night thinking about tomorrow or the next day, but it is the next 10 to 20 years that we have to be thoughtful about.

Q: Rick Heller has delivered a lot lately. Do you anticipate a new contract?

BARTA: Talk about great leaders. Rick and I spoke before he went to the Big Ten’s about his future. We have spoken a couple more times about it. It’s on-going. I want him to be here and he wants to be our coach until he retires. Nothing ready to report yet, but I certainly agree with what you said. When we hired Rick we asked him to become another one of those leaders. We thought he would be someone who could be here 10-20 years and I still believe that. What an amazing year and an amazing run, especially after losing a couple of arms. Thankfully Jake (Adams) came along and kept scoring runs. If fairness, the whole team stepped up and did an amazing job.

Q: When you look at night games this year, I know some fans are confused by the new policy and maybe disappointed because they don’t know when night games might be. How do you communicate with the fans about it and do you have any updates on night games?

BARTA: Change is tough. I would prefer in the old model where we would know in April or May if we were going to have a night game. That made it easier for fans to plan. The new model is the way it is and that’s not going to change. I am not going to be able to go to the Big Ten and get that differently unless the TV partners and the Big Ten come to some agreement. Right now that agreement is they have the late opportunity.

We know the first two games, home and away. We know the third game is 2:30. I don’t know if Penn State, Ohio State, and Minnesota are going to be night games, but I know at least a couple of those probably are. You can pretend you are a TV executive and decide which one of those you might pick and have a good idea.

Q: It was pretty rare if two Big Ten games were on at night at the same time. With the setup now, is it possible for it to happen on say, Fox and ESPN?

BARTA: Good point. We used to keep windows clean and not have an overlap. I think in the new day you could see something different because you have multiple partners involved. I don’t know if that will happen, but it is possible.

Q: On the day you play Penn State, Michigan State and Notre Dame is scheduled for a night game on Fox. So there is potential that ABC/ESPN could take that game?

BARTA: Yes, there is potential for that to happen.

Q: What is your reserve fund down to right now?

BARTA: At year end, it will be around 3 million. We have had it as high at 12 million. The events of the last two years have brought that down and we will build it back up.

Q: How concerning is it to you? How long will it take to build back up?

BARTA: If you look at this historically, like on the NCAA report, which by the way is filled with a lot of misinformation it’s not apples to apples. That’s not a knock on the NCAA, but the way it is reported. If you go back over the last ten years, there are years where we showed a 14 million dollar profit and a couple of years of a ten million dollar profit. That didn’t mean we had ten million sitting there. It meant that cash flow wise we had ten million show up before that report was due. Same thing when it’s a negative. It doesn’t mean we are negative cash flow. We are on very strong financial ground right now. I anticipate one more year of negative and mostly because of the settlement. We are still able to run our operating budget and manage things fine. The goal is to build that back up to 10 million plus. I don’t know how long it will take, but we have a plan to do it over the next couple of years.

Q: Do you feel personally responsible for the 6.5 million?

BARTA: Because of the way I am wired, yes. From a technical standpoint as I mentioned earlier those decisions were not just made by Gary Barta. I am the one in charge of the athletic department, so I pulled the trigger. I had great advice from the general counsel, the president’s counsel, and HR. That’s just my personality and maybe that’s why I feel it, but the fact that it was a decision that was endorsed by the entire university, technically, no.

Q: Have you reached out to Jane or Tracey? Have they reached out to you?

BARTA: What do you think? (Laugh)

Q: Any desire to do that?

BARTA: I have moved forward. I’m not going to hold grudges. I don’t see us exchanging Christmas cards any time soon, but I am not walking around angry at them. I am angry at what happened, but I am moving forward. I still have people who see me on the street and ask me if I am ok. The answer is absolutely. All that momentum I told you about with the record fundraising, incredible coaches doing incredible things in sports where you can feel the momentum.

Q: One of the things that came up during the trial is that you don’t communicate with your coaches via e-mail. Is that something you have thought about changing?

BARTA: Are you kidding me? Then you guys would have access to all my conversations. (laugh) As leaders, we can all communicate better. I am not one to communicate by e-mail, especially when it is an important topic. I would never send an e-mail to Rick Heller saying here is what we will do in our contract, partly because of public records. But, I communicate with Rick regularly. I don’t have a twitter account. I’m not on facebook. I don’t know most of the social media outlets. I would rather sit down with you and talk and have the conversation. That’s not going to change. I will always try to communicate more, but not by e-mail.

Q: Does that put you in a bad spot because you can’t prove things happened?

BARTA: I’m not to the point in my career…I’m not ready to retire or consider resigning, but I am to the point in my career where I have been doing this for 30 years I do it because I love it. I do it because I love young people and what college athletics stands for. I am not going to start making decisions based on what’s legally going to protect me the most. I am going to try and do what I have done for 30 years. I am going to try and do what I think is right.

Q: How is Barbara Burke a better fit than Jane was?

BARTA: I’m not going to go there, but I will say what Barbara is. She has 30 years of experience. She was an AD for seven years. She has been a deputy AD now three times. She has already met with all the coaches and has been welcomed by all of our staff. When I said earlier that the mood and culture has never been better, from the day Gene arrived and including the time when she arrived a little over a year ago, she has done a fantastic job. She is highly qualified, which is why I hired her in that senior role. I tried to get her interested in the deputy AD job when we created it and the timing wasn’t right for her. When I hired here as a senior associate, I told her Gene has goals and when he does, I can’t promise you the job, but I can promise you will be a leading candidate.

Q: Gene was in charge of the football scheduling. Is Barbara now taking over that responsibility as well?

BARTA: She is doing it just like Gene was. Now, Gene never made a decision without me or Kirk. She has over 30 years of contacts all over the country, so she will do the day to day. She knows principally what Kirk looks for in a schedule. She knows what I look for in a schedule.

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