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Iowa AD Gary Barta supportive of 10th coach, with caveat

Athletic Director wants a limit on the size of a football staff; also backs addition of early signing periods

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IOWA CITY — Early signing periods and a 10th assistant football coach were two major topics addressed by University of Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta at the President’s Committee on Athletics' monthly meeting on Thursday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

If enacted, the proposals would mark significant change for college football. A pair of 72-hour early signing periods were proposed for the last Wednesday in June and in December — a change from the single signing period on the first Wednesday in February – and it was proposed to add a 10th assistant coach to football staffs.

In his address to the PCA, Barta expressed support for both proposals, but with a few caveats in regards to the addition of an official coach position.

“I’m supportive in that they have between 105 and 115 people on a roster, so I’m OK adding another coach. What concerns me is the explosion in terms of size of staffs,” Barta said. “What I’d like to do, and am supportive of, is going ahead and approving that 10th coach, but I’d like to have parameters established around size of staff.”

Barta cited the bloated college football staffs that have popped up nationwide, but most specifically at the Power 5 conference schools where money is fluent.

He said his opinion on it stems not from a financial or competitive standpoint, rather one of a “common sense perspective.”

A litany of logistical and compliance issues come with more employees and in Barta’s view, the NCAA and its programs need to protect themselves from that getting too far out of hand.

“You’re having game analysts, recruiting coordinators and you look across the country and staffs continue to grow,” Barta said. “Like we say you can have five strength coaches and can only have nine assistant coaches, maybe you could say your total staff that works just with football could be whatever number we come to agreement upon. That would include the idea of adding a 10th assistant coach.

“At some point, if those staffs continue to grow, one you have more people to make sure are doing things the right way, and it doesn’t make sense to me to keep growing and growing these staffs.”

Barta added he’s not sure “what the right number is” for that agreed upon size of a staff. He said he’s more interested, at this point, in “exploring the principle” of adding a coach and controlling staff size.

Currently, Iowa has around 45 football staff members – including official staff positions, athletic trainers, strength and conditioning, videographers, graduate and student assistants. Barta was quick to point out that while much of that “other” category of a football staff that is filled by student staff at Iowa, “on someone else’s campus it might be a full-time, six-figure salary.”

Barta said he was not advocating for any kind of salary cap – he wants the market to drive what staff positions are paid – but focused purely on controlling the size across the board.

“Let’s identify what’s important to run these programs, then come up with a common sense parameter by which we would all (follow),” Barta said.

When it comes to the early signing periods, Barta supported those based on data.

He said 40 percent of recruits have decided or verbally committed by that end-of-June period, and 90 percent of those commits stay with that commitment and sign the following February.

Allowing those early periods, he said, would allow student-athletes to have stress-free senior years. It also would give coaches an easier time filling rosters and not have to worry about players backing out of commitments.

Some who oppose the change cite players who don’t sign early getting overlooked during a successful senior year, a push for the recruiting process to begin even sooner than it already does, and the strain on players to have an opportunity to visit a quality number of schools to be able to make an informed decision.

Barta is hopeful, though, and said both he and head coach Kirk Ferentz are supportive.

“It’s a proposal that is taking good steps. It still is a proposal, so who knows, it could be tweaked,” Barta said. “We’ve been talking about it now for over a year, so I think it’s starting to get some clarity. I feel confident something is going to happen.”

Barta also told the PCA he tried again to push for a rule that would change the number of wins for a team to be eligible for a bowl game from six to seven. He’s long been a proponent of the rule, and told the committee with a laugh that he still couldn’t get it any traction in meetings, but that he would stay an advocate for the change. In its history, Iowa has gone to three bowls as a six-win team, twice when the 11-game season was the norm (1988, 1993) and once in a 12-game season (2006).

In Barta’s view, having a winning season trumps everything else. And yes, it would mean a reduction in the number of bowls. He’s just fine with that.

“Having a six-win season has always been a bowl minimum qualification, but that goes back to when we played 11 games,” Barta said. “That meant you had a winning season. I continue – every committee I’m on and discussion I have – I still think you should have a winning record to go to a bowl.

“For the good of college football, in my opinion, I think we have too many bowls. I think having a winning season, having the bowls mean a lot to everyone who participates is why I feel that way.”

Also during the PCA meeting, a pair of subcommittees gave reports on annual budget and upcoming facilities projects. The UI sits eighth in the Big Ten with a $102 million budget, and there are plans for renovation of the Gerdin Athletic Learning Center.

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

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