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IOWA CITY — With the full 2021 fiscal budget now over, University of Iowa Athletics has confirmed that no contracted football coaches — including head coach Kirk Ferentz — participated in voluntary salary reductions it announced a year ago in light of COVID-19 losses the department projected to be devastating, causing it to eliminate several Hawkeye sports and take out a $50 million loan from the main campus.
At the start of the 2021 budget year — on June 30, 2020 — UI Athletics announced all its contracted staff were being asked to “consider either participating in the voluntary, temporary salary reduction option or making a donation back to the department sometime during the FY 2020-2021 fiscal year,” Senior Associate Athletics Director Matt Henderson told The Gazette.
Even before that announcement, many big-name coaches already had signed contract amendments to take the pay cut — including Fran McCaffery, head coach of the men’s basketball team; Lisa Bluder, head coach of the women’s basketball squad; Tom and Terry Brands, head and associate head wrestling coaches; and head coaches of the Hawkeye volleyball, rowing, field hockey, women’s gymnastics, women’s tennis, softball, soccer, baseball, golf and track and field programs, according to public records requested and reviewed by The Gazette.
Coaches of the now-eliminated Olympic sports — men’s swimming and diving, men’s tennis and men’s gymnastics — offered to take pay cuts, but the UI later waived those.
At the time those coaches were taking reductions, the university was unclear whether any fall football season would materialize. Football is the department’s biggest moneymaker — taking in nearly $22 million in fiscal 2020, not including tens of millions more in conference contributions, media rights revenue and football-specific philanthropy. That nearly $22 million in football revenue — mostly from ticket sales — was nearly seven times the $3.3 million men’s basketball generated that year.
Given the loss of football fans last season, the typically self-supported UI Athletics Department in September projected no football-specific income for the budget year that just ended June 30 — and it took a $50 million loan from the main campus, also struggling with pandemic losses and costs.
When the Big Ten Conference last fall announced member universities could resurrect a truncated season of conference-only games, without public ticket sales, the Hawkeyes went 6-2 and qualified for the Dec. 30 Music City Bowl — a game they never played because the opponent, the University of Missouri, reported too many COVID-19 cases.
Ten Hawkeye football coaches agreed “as part of the budget reductions” to forgo their bowl game bonuses — saving the department $431,333. Kirk Ferentz did not forgo his $100,000 bowl game bonus.
The assistant coaches also didn’t earn their contractual seven-win bonuses because the team won six in the shortened season. Ferentz, too, missed his eight-win $500,000 bonus.
When UI Athletics Director Gary Barta in June 2020 announced the budget cuts and staff sacrifices, he said specifically that Bluder, McCaffery, Brands and Ferentz “have voluntarily agreed to a one-year, 15-percent base salary reduction or contribution back to the athletics department.”
While the other three by that time had signed contract amendments to reduce their respective salaries 15 percent — Bluder on June 22, McCaffery on June 23 and Brands on June 24 — Ferentz didn’t take a pay cut. Per his contract, his base salary increased $100,000 from $2.6 million in the 2020 budget year to $2.7 million in fiscal 2021.
Ferentz didn’t make any new philanthropic commitments to the department although he made good on a previous commitment to give annual installments totaling $400,000 for football letterwinner initiatives. Kirk and Mary Ferentz over time have given nearly $1 million to the athletics department and in 2017 announced a $1 million donation to the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital.
Henderson told The Gazette that last summer’s announcement of voluntary pay cuts or donations didn’t clarify timing or specify whether the coach commitments included previous pledges or new outright gifts.
“The intent of recognizing Kirk and Mary’s continued, generous philanthropy to athletics has not changed,” he said.
Like last year, Ferentz’s salary again — per his contract — increased another $100,000 in the new fiscal 2022 budget that started July 1 to $2.8 million.
Compensation for the coaches and athletics executives who took voluntary cuts rebounded in the new budget year — per a clause in all the one-year amendments stating, “Effective July 1, 2021, coach’s salary will return to the previous or previously agreed upon salary level.”
That includes Deputy Director of Athletics Barbara Burke — who took a 25 percent pay cut from $290,000 to $217,500 — and Athletics Director Gary Barta, who took 15 percent from his newly-increased $650,000 base wage for fiscal 2021; forfeited half his $300,000 deferred compensation contribution called for in the 2020 budget year and spared another $150,000 in deferred compensation in fiscal 2021.
Under his contract amendment, Barta’s base pay July 1 rebounded from the reduced $552,500 to $650,000.
“For the plan years beginning on July 1, 2021 and thereafter,” according to Barta’s 2020 contract amendment, “the terms of the deferred compensation arrangement shall return to $400,000 as provided in the contract.”
Although some football coaches gave up their contractual bowl-game bonuses, all who did have seen base pay increases — like defensive coordinator Phillip Parker, whose salary jumped $90,000 to $890,000; assistant coach and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, whose pay increased from $775,000 to $860,000; and Raimond Braithwaite, whose salary more than doubled from $205,000 to $450,000 when he took on new responsibilities as head strength coach.
Under a new agreement with Parker — which he signed four months ago — beginning July 1, 2022 his salary will increase 24 percent to $1.1 million, plus any additional bonus pay and a $210,000 award if still employed on June 30, 2022.
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