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"I was not a very good player," Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta said about his days as a quarterback at North Dakota State from 1983 to 1986.
Evidence doesn’t support that claim. Though Barta spent his playing career backing up Jeff Bentrim, he had his moments. One in specific came in the 1986 NCAA Division II championship game in Florence, Ala.
Bentrim had run 13 yards with a quarterback draw in NDSU’s option offense to get a first down at South Dakota’s 8-yard line. Shaken up after getting tackled, he left the game and was replaced by Barta.
The senior from Minneapolis promptly carried the ball four straight times, with the final run going one yard for a touchdown to give the Bison a 14-0 lead. They won 27-7 for their third national title in four years.
Subbing for Bentrim in a midseason game, Barta completed an 80-yard pass and rushed for three touchdowns and 86 yards in a 63-0 rout of North Central Conference foe Morningside.
Bentrim was good. In fact, he was the 1986 winner of the Harlon Hill Trophy, D-II’s version of the Heisman Trophy. He was elected into College Football’s Hall of Fame in 1998.
Bentrim played for a few years in the Canadian Football League. He lives in Calgary, Alberta, and is a surgical sales consultant. Barta got a degree from NDSU in mass communication and broadcast journalism, then took jobs at that school, Northern Iowa and the University of Washington before becoming Wyoming’s athletic director, and then Iowa’s in 2006.
“I had a great experience at North Dakota State,” Barta said. “I played on some great teams.”
He compares the football and athletics programs at NDSU to those at Iowa, saying “They go about things the right way.”
“Their fans travel well to football games. With all due respect to some of our conference’s fans, Bison fans travel as well if not better than most. They’re a lot like Hawkeye fans in that regard. They take opportunities to travel around the country to watch games, and they have big rallies and huddles.”
Thirty years later, Barta will welcome NDSU to Kinnick Stadium. To a degree, anyway.
“I’m very proud of my alma mater,” he said. “But I would expect we beat them and we need to beat them on Saturday. Then I want them to win every other game the rest of the century.”