IOWA CITY — Between having to suspend the men’s basketball head coach and radio play-by-play voice, of course, Iowa athletics director Gary Barta characterized last week as "difficult."
He didn’t speak a ton on the topic with reporters after a presidential committee on athletics meeting on Tuesday, but there were a few takeaways.
Barta was asked if there were any repercussions from donors who might’ve been unhappy with the situation that ended up with Iowa football and men’s basketball radio voice Gary Dolphin, a 22-year veteran for the UI, receiving a second suspension this season.
He said he didn’t feel as if he had to smooth choppy waters.
“There have been a lot of conversations,” Barta said. “Maybe it’s [that] the people talking to me are very supportive of what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. It doesn’t mean they always say we’re doing everything perfectly, but they’re 100 percent behind us. The news conferences were explanatory. I haven’t had a lot of follow-up since then.”
One root of speculation that was addressed last Wednesday was the fact that Iowa, Barta and men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery weren’t trying to have Dolphin fired. That was something everyone UI probably knew wasn’t true. Why let the speculation continue?
“We had a process we needed to go through, so I’m not uncomfortable that we went through that process,” Barta said. “As I said, maybe I could’ve put out a little more information Friday to put it on hold a little bit more. Once we got started, we wanted to make sure we got it right before we came out and spoke about it.”
The notion that Iowa has all of the power over the announcers that Learfield IMG College/Hawkeye Sports Properties hires is overblown. Iowa has final say, but Learfield does the interviewing and hiring. Dolphin is an employee of Learfield IMG College.
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“They’re not going to hire someone we don’t want and aren’t comfortable with,” Barta said, but beyond that, Learfield is the principle hiring entity for these jobs.
— Barta has been on the NCAA transfer committee for the past two years. The goal is to make transfers more uniform across all sports while finding fairness for students and schools.
One proposal that is starting to gain traction is five years to play five, with no redshirts, medical redshirts or sitting a year after transferring. Barta said there is “significant discussion” on this option.
The issue is the growing number of transfer waivers that have sprouted. If a player has to sit a season, oftentimes they file waivers and are allowed to play immediately. It’s not uniform and is creating situations where transfer candidates lawyer up and get around the rules in place.
“Over the years, the rule book has gotten thicker because we keep coming up with exceptions or waivers,” Barta said. “Sometimes, your waiver is approved and sometimes, it’s not. We’ve gotten to the point where the exception has become just as common as the norm or the rule. This is a different way to look at it.”
Barta didn’t say this is what’s going to happen.
“Will it gain traction? I don’t know,” Barta said. “Having served on the transfer committee, I’ve spent so much time looking at the data, looking at what’s the best way to do it, it just kind of opens your eyes. Maybe there’s another way to do it.”
The report, by veteran college football reporter Brett McMurphy, has the Big Ten with Las Vegas and Belk (Charlotte, N.C.) Bowl ties that will rotate with the SEC. Also, if a Big Ten team is in the Orange Bowl, the ACC will get the Big Ten slot in the Outback Bowl.
According to the Stadium report, the Music City Bowl (Nashville, Tenn.) will just be Big Ten and SEC, the Big Ten will lose the Holiday Bowl and have nine bowl tie-ins.
Barta didn’t confirm or deny any of this info.
“Whatever we do going forward, I felt like we have one of the best bowl lineups in the country,” Barta said. “The bowls we’re talking about going forward will continue that.”
— Alcohol for the general public at Iowa athletics events likely isn’t moving forward this year.
At some point, if Iowa officials deem alcohol availability as something that adds to the fan experience, it could move forward.
“We won’t be the first and I doubt we’ll be the last,” Barta said. “It’s something we’re going to keep talking about on our campus. There’s nothing imminent. There’s no big announcement. I actually would be surprised if anything happened for the coming year. It’s something we’re keeping our eye on.”
“When his legacy is done, when he finally steps away and even when we’re living in it, he’s an innovator,” Barta said. “He’s someone who’s had a great impact on college sports and most certainly the Big Ten. I just love being able to work with him. He really cares about the student-athletes.”
The Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors will conduct the search with input from conference athletics directors, Barta said.
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— Barta said Iowa has an idea of what it wants to do for colossally talented basketball player Megan Gustafson, who’s reached emeritus status with 23 Big Ten player of the week honors during her career.
Barta was adamant, as was head coach Lisa Bluder earlier this year, that the program will wait until the season is over before honoring Gustafson, a player of the year candidate.
“Megan Gustafson is the best women’s basketball player I’ve ever been around personally in my 30 years,” Barta said. “She’s a special person and a special player, but she’s not done yet. We’re going to keep playing basketball and figure out the rest later.”
— Iowa is eyeing the idea of a wrestling facility. It’s not an official project, it’s simply being discussed at this point.
“We’re having some great conversations with some donors,” Barta said. “(Wrestling coach) Tom (Brands) has a vision of what he wants. We have some pretty pictures that aren’t construction documents, they’re just ‘Wouldn’t this be nice?’”
Until Iowa gets enough resources in place, it will remain in discussion mode.
— What the school plans to do with the old football building remains up in the air.
Barta said the athletics department would like to add a dining center at some point, but baseball, softball and track and field could end up finding a home in that building, located just across from football’s Hansen Performance Center.
— The update on the ongoing construction in the north stands of Kinnick Stadium remains on schedule, Barta said. Most of the work during this brutal winter was done inside the new construction.
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