Iowa AD Barta 'surprised' Doyle contract caused social media stir

Athletics Director said there's no update on Ferentz contract or north end zone project; addressed first President's Committee on Athletics of year, urged building on 2015-16's success

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IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa President’s Committee on Athletics held its first meeting of the 2016-17 academic year on Thursday afternoon at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The meeting was largely a coming-together of committee members and a general presentation of President Bruce Harreld and Athletics Director Gary Barta’s vision for what the oversight committee’s role will be.

Barta’s message to the committee centered on wanting to continue the success Iowa athletics had on and off the field last year — highlighting an 89 percent graduation rate, as well as academic recognition for basketball players Jarrod Uthoff and Ally Disterhoft.

“Things are really good, but we can always, always get better. I’m not going to stand here and promise you that something bad won’t happen here,” Barta said when addressing the committee. “There’s too many moving parts, and too many things. But we can, 1, reduce the likelihood with the people we hire and groups like this that are constantly holding us accountable. And then, 2, if something (bad) does happen, we’re going to own it, deal with it and then we’ll move on.”

One thing that happened during the summer that made some headlines — though it certainly wasn’t a bad thing — that Barta was asked about after the meeting was Iowa football strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle’s raise to $595,000 per year.

Doyle’s new yearly salary is significantly higher than most of his Big Ten counterparts, and many in his position across the country.

The revelation caused a wave of reaction on social media, with critics questioning if someone in Doyle’s role is worth that amount of money. Former players and many fans took to social media to explain why he’s worth it after 18 years of producing NFL-caliber talent under head coach Kirk Ferentz.

Barta agreed wholeheartedly, and said he was unsure why the reaction was what it was — simply because Doyle’s value has been clear for a long time.

“Kirk has had this approach for many, many years where he approaches the offensive coordinator, the defensive coordinator and the strength and conditioning coordinator as kind of the same level. And, actually, he considers Chris his associate head coach. So I’m surprised it became a story lately because it’s been the case for many years,” Barta said. “Chris Doyle is a critical part of our success. He’s one of the best strength and conditioning coaches in the country, and he’s invaluable to Kirk’s team.

“He has incredible value. It’s not just about being stronger and faster. It’s about learning about time management and commitment to a team environment. Those are all the things that Chris brings to the table. He’s an incredibly valuable piece of Kirk’s puzzle.”

In other contract news — or lack thereof, actually — Barta echoed what he’s said recently about a new contract for Ferentz: there’s no update yet, and no timetable set for one.

Barta said Thursday, “when there is something, we’ll announce it. But right now, we’re focused on the season. That’s our No. 1 priority.”

Additionally, there still are no finalized plans for Iowa’s north end zone project, which Barta said in July could exceed $75 million. The only change Thursday was Barta hinted Iowa’s presentation to the Board of Regents could be coming soon.

“No update yet. We’re still in the planning process,” Barta said. “At some point, probably not too far in the future, we’ll go to the Board of Regents and provide them an update and a budget, and kind of show them the next step.”

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

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