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Barta on early signing, 10th assistant and Hawkeyes' schedule
TAMPA, Fla. — A Wednesday afternoon chat with Iowa athletics director Gary Barta started with the state of Iowa's football program.
It's 20-6 the last two seasons going into Monday's Outback Bowl against Florida. The head football coach is signed through the 2025 season. A $55 million facility is headed into its second year. A $90 million renovation of Kinnick Stadium's north end zone is in the works.
With a victory over the Gators (8-4), the Hawkeyes could notch a nine-win season, which would be the sixth season north of eight victories in Kirk Ferentz's 18 as head coach. Also pending the result of the Outback Bowl, Ferentz will go into the 2017 season needing seven or eight victories to tie Hayden Fry as Iowa's career victories leader (Fry retired after 1998 with 143 wins, Ferentz has 135 going into Monday's game).
The program is fine. The 2016 season wasn't the 2015 season, you know, when Iowa went 12-2 and earned its first Rose Bowl berth in 25 years. Still, the Hawkeyes (8-4) beat then-No. 3 Michigan in front of 10 million people watching on ABC and that was the week after one of Ferentz's worst losses, a 41-14 defeat at Penn State.
'I've told a lot of the players, what a great preparation for life,' Barta said. 'You're going to have times in life when you're down and everyone is going to think you're done, but you have to bounce back.'
Barta doesn't give out his final grades on a season until the season is over. That held up after the 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl, when Iowa flamed out against Tennessee and finished 7-6. It also was the case last season.
So, what else do you ask Iowa's athletics director?
— Lots of eyes will be on the Division I Council, responsible for day-to-day management at college sports' highest level, in April when it decides on two things: two early recruiting signing periods to the traditional February date and the addition of a 10th football assistant coach.
The first new signing period would fall on the final Wednesday in June and last 72 hours. The second early signing period would coincide with the midyear junior-college period in mid-December.
Barta believes both measures will pass in some form. Obviously, the early signing period is contentious. The two biggest names in the college football game are on opposite ends. Alabama coach Nick Saban is for the early signing; Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is against.
Ferentz has long voiced support for early signing. Barta echoed that on Wednesday.
'If you have a student who has decided they absolutely know what they want to do, it allows them to get it off the table, it allows us to get it off the table and both parties can relax and focus on other things,' Barta said.
Barta and Ferentz also are in favor of earlier visit dates, with those coming in the spring and summer before an August signing period.
'That's where the negotiations are going to go on,' Barta said. 'Whether it's earlier or later, I've heard August or December or no change. If we have to modify and go to December, that'd be fine, but I'd be supportive of August. The student then could go into their last season not worrying about it.'
The proposals were submitted by the Division I Football Oversight Committee. Final votes on these proposals will come in April, though the signing period proposal will go to the Division I Collegiate Commissioners Association, which tabled this discussion in June 2015.
Barta is for the 10th full-time assistant coach (most schools likely would use this position in recruiting). He and Ferentz would like to see a cap, however, on the size of support staffs.
Barta said Iowa will vote for a 10th coach and 'go after' the support staff issue at a later date.
— Barta said Iowa is close to filling some schedule slots in football. As it stands right now, the next open date is September 2019.
'We're close on a couple of conversations, but not ready to announce,' Barta said.
He did add that there are 'continued conversations' on a neutral site game. Iowa's last regular-season neutral site game was 2012 against Northern Illinois at Soldier Field in Chicago.
Before you go off on Iowa's non-conference schedule, which opens with Wyoming next fall, the Iowa adminstration has two work-arounds in this regard: The Big Ten now plays nine conference football games (same as the Pac-12 and Big 12, while the SEC and ACC play eight). Also, the Hawkeyes' series with Iowa State football is under contract through the 2021 season.
Earlier this fall Barta said the thought of a big Labor Day non-conference game was 'intriguing,' but there had been no discussion on taking a break from the Iowa State series.
— Iowa's ticket allotment for the Outback Bowl is 8,500. Barta said Wednesday that Iowa has sold 'right around' 8,000 tickets.
'In talking to the bowl, a lot of Hawkeye fans are buying directly from the bowl,' Barta said. 'I know we'll have a big contingent.'
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