Barta confident Des Moines practice will happen

If it comes down to the NIT, Iowa would be able to host first two rounds

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IOWA CITY -- Iowa athletics director Gary Barta said Tuesday that Iowa football is finalizing the details on an April 20 practice in West Des Moines.

Iowa is working on a contract to have the open practice at West Des Moines Valley Stadium, home of the Valley High Tigers which seats 8,000. There are NCAA rules that cover schools having an event on high school premises. That could be why a contract is being written.

"There's definitely interest in doing it, but it's making sure the T's are crossed and the I's are dotted," Barta said. When asked about Valley Stadium, Barta said, "No contracts in place. Once we get it all done, we'll make an official announcement."

Iowa's open practice at Kinnick Stadium is scheduled for April 27. The Des Moines practice is targeted for April 20, which also happens to be the same day Iowa State will hold its spring game at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames.

"Our spring practice [at Kinnick] is on April 27. We usually have another scrimmage the week before the spring game, it just happens to fall . . ." Barta said, "Des Moines is a critical area for our season-ticket holders, our I-Club contributors. We're in Des Moines a lot for events. This is just something that [Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz] Kirk had interest in and the date worked out."

Barta was asked if the Des Moines practice could open up future barnstorming events for Iowa athletics. He wants to see how this one will work first.

Y-E-S to NIT hosting

Barta remains optimistic that the Iowa men's basketball team can win its way into the NCAA tournament this week at the Big Ten tournament, but in case the Hawkeyes don't, Iowa can play host to the first two rounds of the National Invitation Tournament.

There was some question in that regard with Iowa already hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA women's basketball tournament March 24-26. The NIT's first-round games will be played March 19-20. Second-round games can be played March 21-25. Quarterfinal games will be played March 26-27.

Barta said March 25 would be out for the NIT. The NCAA women's tournament takes over Carver-Hawkeye for those three days.

"If we're invited to the NIT, we'd be able to host the first two rounds in Iowa City," Barta said. "After that, we'd have to take a look at it."

It's not the first choice, obviously, but Iowa has talked with NIT officials and Barta said the school is interested in hosting.

"The NIT knows that," Barta said. "The way it works now is the highest-seeded team will play host and we'll be able to do that. We've made it clear to the NCAA [which runs the NIT] that's the case."

Of course, Iowa's athletics director will not surrender Iowa's chances to make the NCAA tournament.

"We have a great case to make," he said. "We're 9-9 in the best conference in the country. We beat Minnesota, we beat Illinois, we won six of our last eight. Our strength of schedule wasn't as strong, but hopefully those other things will be considered.

"We certainly have work to do at the Big Ten tournament."

The Hawkeyes (20-11, 9-9 Big Ten), the No. 6 seed, open tournament play against No. 11 Northwestern (13-18, 4-14) at 8 p.m. Thursday.

"I don't know if we'll get in or if we won't," Barta said, "but I clearly feel we're one of the best 68 teams in the country and, hopefully, we will."

Quick slants

-- The contracts for Iowa's three newest football assistant coaches -- Jim Reid, Bobby Kennedy and Chris White -- are close to being finalized. Barta said their salaries would be released when the contracts are finished. "There won't be any major surprises," Barta said.

-- According to Barta, Iowa will soon break ground on its new football operations facility, the phase II part of football/athletics construction. Phase I was the new indoor facility that opened last August. The total cost of the facility updates is $55 million.

Barta said the bidding process is nearly finished. "Here in the next month or so, you should see some fences start to go up," he said.

The operations facility will include new locker, equipment and meeting rooms, strength and conditioning center, medical facility, coaches’ offices and a public entryway. It will be located south of the new indoor facility. The targeted completion date is before the 2014 football season begins.

-- National sports internet sites picked up on the Daily Iowan tweet and picture of Iowa 125-pounder Matt McDonough's second-place medal being picked out of the trash at last weekend's Big Ten wrestling meet.

Barta wasn't there, but said he's seen similar reactions in sports.

"There's great passion," Barta said. "I'm not saying it's right or wrong, I just know how deeply invested all those guys are. I haven't talked to Matt. There's great intensity and great passion. He wants to win it all and the good news is gets another shot."

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