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Iowa athletics director Gary Barta opened himself to criticism earlier this month when, on a UI athletics website podcast, he suggested the NCAA consider reinstating a year of ineligibility for transfers.
“Amazing how such highly accomplished people can be in such utter denial of reality,” tweeted The Athletic’s Stewart Mandel. “Maybe talk to a lawyer first?”
One-time transferring without penalty isn’t likely to be rescinded. That said, Barta recently spoke with some Iowa media members in one-on-one interviews to try to amplify his concerns with the NCAA transfer portal and how it’s affected by the NCAA’s year-old name, image and likeness policy. Here are some of his comments to The Gazette this week as he was returning to Iowa from Big Ten meetings in suburban Chicago:
Q: Can you put the toothpaste back in the tube (regarding reinstituting a one-year sit-out period for transfers)?
Barta: “Maybe not. And I realized that when I said it.
“I was able to spark a conversation about transfers a week ago. I actually was glad that it created some conversation in the context of just trying to figure out how we go forward in college athletics in the new day.
“You may remember that I’m actually supportive of student-athletes transferring. I was on the (NCAA) transfer committee that sent forward a lot of what is now in the transfer portal, and I was motivated by it because of what happened to (former Iowa basketball player) Jarrod Uthoff under the old rules. Under the old rules, if a school didn’t release you, you had to sit out a year and you couldn’t receive your scholarship.
“But when the transfer portal was created, NIL didn’t exist. So now we have name, image and likeness, which I also support when it’s actually name, image and likeness, and not being used as an inappropriate recruiting inducement.
“The combination of the two has sort of created what a lot of people refer to as free agency without guardrails.
“What I suggested was, what if you had to sit out a year like you used to, but not have to pay your own scholarship? But there are other possibilities. What if you sit out a year but once you do you can get an extended year of eligibility put on the backside?”
Q: So how do NIL inducements to high school athletes from boosters/donors get policed?
Barta: “It remains to be seen if it can be policed, but prior to name, image and likeness, it was against the rules for a university or a booster on behalf of the university to call either a high school prospect or a student-athlete on someone else's current roster and offer them inducements to come to their school. That rule still is in place.
“And there's really there's not a discussion about policing that types of deals that some students are getting. I mean, at Iowa we have a student-athlete with a grocery store, we have student-athletes with restaurant deals, student-athletes with podcasts, apparel lines — all of that is what it was intended for. Where it violates the rules is when a booster or a member of a staff or a coach reach out to a prospect and offer inducements to come to their school.
“I think what I'm picking up is that if (the NCAA) does have some idea of some of these transactions that have occurred that they might be able to prove and if they can put sanctions on those cases. If they do that, in theory, hopefully it would slow things down, it would get it back to a realization that name, image and likeness is designed for student-athletes to earn money off their name, image or likeness. It's not designed to be used as a recruiting addition.
“I'm not naive. I mean, I realize sometimes these are hard to prove. … It will be different going forward and that’s fine. But we have to try and identify something that’s sustainable, and right now I just don’t feel the way we’re going about it is sustainable.”
Q: Where is Iowa in terms of NIL collectives? Some schools have moved pretty fast in this area and continue to accelerate.
Barta: “Yes, you hear of booster groups across the country who are getting very aggressive. I'm certainly not saying all of them. Some of them are engaging in some of that recruiting-inducement approach, which is breaking the rules. At Iowa, the people who have approached us that are working on collectives … they have approached us and said ‘Hey, we really want to do one of these. We're touching base with you because we want to do it the right way. We want to do it in a way that yes, it puts more financial support in student-athletes’ hands, but it also has education and donor networking. You know, other benefits to it.
“There’s probably a sense of why we've got to hurry up so we don't fall behind. The reality is from my vantage point, if a couple of these pop up between now and the end of the summer, we'll be fine because it's intended to be for your current student-athletes, not for recruiting.”
Q: What would be an ideal collective?
Barta: “In my opinion, an ideal collective is a group of companies and individuals who create a collective, an LLC or an organization and they put money in it, and they reach out to student-athletes and say ‘Hey, at Iowa you can join up with us. We’re going to provide you with a certain amount of money. In exchange for that, we’re going to have an educational piece to this about how to pay taxes, how taxes are going to be involved, how to invest your money.’ Which we’re doing. We’ve had Finance 101 for our student-athletes.
“Then the final piece of that in the collective we’ve been hearing about at Iowa is in exchange for that money, you’re going to help us promote and support local charities. In my opinion, that’s a collective that would be doing it in a way that’s a real positive experience.
“There's been one idea that's been floated about, more of a group licensing approach. An amount of money is generated in exchange for everything I just said with the charities, and maybe everybody gets a similar amount from that collective. Then if there are those who want to go out and pursue additional name image and likeness opportunities, they do that on top of it on their own. That's kind of my sense of how it would work in a really good way.”
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