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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
University of Iowa football coaches so far have not chipped in to the campuswide effort to reduce spending amid the coronavirus pandemic.
UI sports programs last year asked contracted employees to take voluntary salary reductions to soften the blow of millions in pandemic-related revenue losses. Most of them agreed, including head coaches of basketball, wrestling, volleyball, rowing, field hockey, gymnastics, tennis, softball, soccer, baseball, golf and track and field.
For other sports employees, the cuts were not voluntary. The department last year eliminated 40 positions through layoffs and attrition while requiring most non-contract employees to take unpaid furlough days or base salary reductions.
The football coaching staff — the biggest and best compensated at the university — has declined to take part in the salary cuts, The Gazette’s Vanessa Miller reported last week. Ten football coaches voluntarily passed up their bonus for qualifying for a bowl game (which was never played due to COVID-19), though head coach Kirk Ferentz opted to keep his bonus.
Meanwhile, UI sports programs are getting a $50 million loan from the main campus to help cover pandemic losses, reversing a previous plan to have athletics pay back in to the university. They also are cutting three nonrevenue sports to cope with the budget crunch.
The university is in a tough spot and Ferentz is Iowa’s highest-paid public employee with an annual base salary of $2.7 million. He works at a taxpayer-funded institution with a monopoly on college sports in the market. His compensation is fair game for public scrutiny.
The Athletics Department last June announced some $15 million in budget reductions to mitigate the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials said that would include voluntary pay cuts from the head wrestling, men’s and women’s basketball and football coaches.
Ferentz and his family have been generous donors to the university and the broader community. If he had declined the pay cut from the outset, we wouldn’t have second-guessed it. But when millionaire public employees say they’re going to do something, they have a responsibility to follow through.
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