Iowa staffers, including Kirk Ferentz, taking significant pay cuts as school tightens athletics budget

Sam Cooper
·3 min read

Top University of Iowa athletic officials will take significant pay cuts for the 2021 fiscal year as the athletic department operates on a reduced budget amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The school announced Tuesday that it will see its budget reduced by approximately $15 million, dropping from the initially projected $127.5 million to $112.5 million. The reductions include nearly $13 million in operating expenses, with the remainder coming in the form of salary adjustments.

These figures, however, will likely change — and not for the better. The school said in its press release that the anticipated reductions “assume complete football and basketball seasons with fans in attendance.” With the pandemic lingering, anticipating a full Kinnick Stadium (capacity: nearly 70,000) does not seem realistic.

“Any interruptions or reduction in these seasons would lead to more significant cuts,” the school said.

IOWA CITY, IOWA- SEPTEMBER 16:  Fans cheer as the Iowa Hawkeyes take the field before the match-up against the North Texas Mean Green on September 16, 2017 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.  (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)
Iowa's athletic department is making significant reductions to its budget for the 2021 fiscal year. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)

Gary Barta, Kirk Ferentz, others taking pay cuts

In terms of salaries, the most notable cut will come from Gary Barta, Iowa’s athletic director. His compensation package will be reduced by “more than 30 percent.” Meanwhile, Hawkeyes head coaches Kirk Ferentz (football), Fran McCaffery (men’s basketball), Lisa Bluder (women’s basketball) and Tom Brands (wrestling) have agreed to one-year, 15-percent reductions or “contribution back to the athletic department.”

Ferentz was paid $4.8 million in 2019, according to the USA Today coaches salary database. He is the highest-paid state employee in Iowa.

"None of this is easy for our coaches and staff. I appreciate their continued understanding in these uncertain times," Barta said. "The pandemic has dealt us a financial situation that requires difficult decisions. It is our responsibility to maintain a fiscally responsible operation while providing the highest level of service to our student-athletes."

The salary reductions will spread throughout the rest of the department, too:

In general, staff earning above $200,000 will see a 10 percent base salary reduction, staff making $150,000-$199,999 a 7.5 percent reduction, salaries of $100,000-$149,999 a five percent reduction, $50,143-$99,999 a three percent reduction, and staff making below $50,143 a two percent salary reduction. Merit employees will participate in the budget reduction process through utilization of unpaid leave days in either six - or eight-day increments. Contracted employees were asked to participate in a voluntary salary reduction or contribution back to the department.

“I care deeply about our staff and recognize a reduction in salary will have a significant impact on many families throughout the department. I want to thank our entire staff for their support and understanding as we have worked through this process,” Barta said. “We are trying to balance making necessary financial cuts with spreading the sacrifice thoughtfully.”

Iowa’s financial outlook arrives on the heels of a similar disclosure from Michigan. On Monday, UM announced it is anticipating it will operate at a $26.1 million deficit for the 2021 fiscal year. Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said his department is projecting operating revenues of $135.8 million with projected expenses of $161.9 million.

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