Barta: Iowa open to night football games, close on 2019 non-conference opponent

Hawkeyes A.D. also said Brian Ferentz contract release will come with that of other assistants, 'probably' before July 1

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IOWA CITY — As spring football rolls on, there’s an eye toward fall and what will come of the 2017 college football season.

In Iowa City, as the Iowa football team trains for that end, work on the Kinnick Stadium renovations also has begun while the athletics department awaits the initial wave of kickoff time announcements. Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said after Thursday night’s President’s Committee on Athletics meeting he expects to find out from the Big Ten some of those game times, “by the end of April.”

With conference home games welcoming Penn State, Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio State and Purdue, there are multiple options for night games in Kinnick Stadium in 2017. Barta said Iowa is open to that, as it has been in the past — both because of fan appreciation for it and the environment that tends to go along with late kickoffs.

“It’s exciting and usually a bigger game by virtue of television coming to the Big Ten and requests big games,” Barta said. “We’ve come to enjoy a couple of night games a year. It’s a nice change. I think the environment has been exciting. And frankly — this isn’t why we enjoy it — we’ve had some good success in night games. There have been some memorable moments just in the 11 years I’ve been here. We look forward to a couple per year.”

Game times not released in spring can be subject to change up to within days of the games themselves, based on network and school approval, Barta said. The Big Ten television contract allows “a little bit more flexibility,” than in the past, so game times can change if one or more schools on a given schedule bring extra attention to a matchup.

Barta said kickoff time is just one factor on attendance, coupled with “the opponent and our success.” He added each school has input but not an official say on the individual kickoff times.

Barta said Iowa has, in the past, requested a few games to the league to be played at night in order to rouse some “momentum in the program,” citing the 2015 game against Pitt as one he requested to be played at night.

“At the end of the day, TV makes their request, the Big Ten gets to make the decision and they do ask us for some feedback,” Barta said.

While this season’s schedule is set, but for those kickoff times, Barta said the non-conference games for 2019 are almost set as well while 2020 still is a work in progress. He didn’t have specifics yet, but said an announcement on the final non-conference opponent for 2019 is imminent.

The Hawkeyes currently are set to play Miami (Ohio) on August 31 and at Iowa State on Sept. 14 in 2019 and against Northern Illinois on Sept. 5 and Iowa State on Sept. 12 in 2020.

“We’re getting really close on 2019,” Barta said. “We think we have that one filled. So the contract, if it happens, it will be here and done pretty soon, so we can release that one. We’re still working on 2020 and beyond.”

As for the stadium construction, Barta said there are “a few things going on this summer,” as preliminary work around Kinnick Stadium is underway.

Kansas City-based JE Dunn Construction — which has a satellite office in Des Moines — was contracted for the project; the bulk of which begins with work on drain tile and other infrastructure items underground beneath the north end zone, street and parking ramp. The current turf will be torn up, workers will go underneath and across to the ramp in the current phase of construction.

Additionally, Barta said the brick walls at field level needed to be replaced, so that will be done before the 2017 season as well. He reiterated that the fan experience won’t change during 2017, but will see some temporary changes in 2018 while “clubs, restrooms and concessions” work is ongoing before the project is completed in 2019.

The turf won’t be removed until after the April 21 spring game. As for what the design of that turf will be, Barta said — again — that nothing has been finalized despite all the fan interest in a potential Tigerhawk at midfield.

“When that’s all done, it was time to replace the turf, so the timing was intentional and worked out well so we’ll have new turf when we arrive in the fall,” Barta said. “It’s not been ordered yet. We haven’t finalized the designs yet. It’ll probably be out there before it goes in, I would assume. I know there’s a lot of interest in it. It’s great people care so much about Hawkeye athletics and Hawkeye football. When it’s time, we’ll unveil the look.”

BRIAN FERENTZ, ASSISTANT COACHES’ CONTRACTS COMING

The contract for new Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz still has yet to be released, despite his being named to the position on Jan. 9.

Barta said Tuesday there are “no challenges or issues,” with his contract; rather that the department is working on contracts and salaries for the rest of the staff and all will be released at the same time.

“Those are in the works,” Barta said. “They’ll definitely be done before July 1, but they’ll probably be done before that.

“Every year we sit down and determine salaries for all the coaches. In some cases, they’re contracts. We have the new coaches so we’re working on all those contracts. We’re working on salaries for other coaches.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8884; jeremiah.davis@thegazette.com

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