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IOWA CITY — For the first time, the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament is in Washington, D.C. Everybody is wondering how this might turn out.
Attendance will be under the microscope. It’s the easiest clue on the trail. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told the Washington Post on Tuesday that he doesn’t expect sellouts this week at the Verizon Center.
If Iowa’s ticket allotment is any sort of barometer on that, the commissioner is correct.
As of Tuesday, Iowa sold 250 of its allotment of 750 tickets, according to Iowa officials. This is the first time in the B1G’s 20-year tournament history it will be held outside of Chicago or Indianapolis, Ind. Next year, the tournament will move to New York before resuming four-year rotations in Indianapolis and Chicago.
Delany told the Post this is more about establishing a presence more than it is attendance. Still, everyone is kind of wondering how this is going to go over.
“The only test I have is the last couple of years when we’ve been out (on the east coast) for wrestling or men’s basketball,” Iowa athletics director Gary Barta said Tuesday. “We’ve played a couple of times in New York and have drawn well. When we played at Maryland in football, we drew a pretty good crowd. I think we’ll draw well.”
Barta said decisions on future Big Ten tournaments will be decided after the Washington-NYC and next rotations through Indianapolis and Chicago plays put.
Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery is all for it.
“I think that’s what our league is,” McCaffery said. “I think that’s what college basketball is. We have the Big Ten Network. We’re a national conference. We’ve got alumni all over the country, all over the world, and I think it’s important to go to those places and play, and I think it’ll be terrific.”
— Both of Iowa’s spring football public appearances will be on Friday nights.
The Hawkeyes will travel to West Des Moines and Valley Stadium for what’s becoming an annual appearance on April 7. Iowa’s spring game at Kinnick Stadium will be April 21, a Friday evening.
A final time and possible TV broadcast has yet to be determined.
— You could argue that this season has been McCaffery’s best coaching job at Iowa. He’s taken a lineup with Peter Jok, the Big Ten’s scoring leader, and three freshman starters and has the Hawkeyes squarely in the NCAA tournament conversation.
McCaffery’s name came up with a few jobs in the last offseason. He’s started to gain that sort of attention again this year.
Barta said everyone’s attention is on the Big Ten tournament.
“I hadn’t even thought about that until you just mentioned it,” Barta said to reporters. “Fran and I have a great relationship. Fran and Margaret love being here. Fran has enjoyed his time, he’s been well taken care of. I promise Fran’s focus is not that, it’s playing Indiana.”
McCaffery, 57, is finishing up his seventh season at Iowa. In 2014, he signed a new contract through the 2019-20 season that pays him nearly $2 million a year.
— A salary for offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz has yet to be finalized, Barta said. Head football coach Kirk Ferentz promoted his son from offensive line coach to offensive coordinator in January.
“He (Kirk Ferentz) does have a budget,” Barta said. “He wanted to see what he was going to pay some of the new coaches and then sit down and figure out with his pool of money what he was going to pay each.”
Barta said Brian Ferentz’s contract will most likely be made retroactive to the date of his promotion.
Quarterbacks coach Ken O’Keefe, who spent 13 years as Iowa’s offensive coordinator under Ferentz, signed a three-year deal that pays him $540,000 per year. Offensive line coach Tim Polasek was hired at $325,000 and wide receivers coach Kelton Copeland will make $225,000. Both have one-year deals.
Brian Ferentz will begin his sixth year on Iowa’s staff, making him eligible for a multiyear contract. In Kirk Ferentz’s latest contract, there was a clause that had assistants with five or more years on staff eligible for multiyear contracts.
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