IOWA CITY — Iowa athletics director Gary Barta said Thursday he didn’t realize that not announcing basketball coach Fran McCaffery’s would raise an uproar.
The decision not to publicly announce the deal was Barta’s. He regrets it.
“Ideally, I would prefer to have those done before the year or after the season is over,” Barta said. “I made the decision not to announce it. I know that’s created concern. I do feel badly for that. My goal was to not announce it at that point, but do it after the season.”
Barta said he’s happy with how the contract turned out. McCaffery’s new deal has him coaching the Hawkeyes through June 2023. That will jump to June 2024 if Iowa makes the NCAA tournament anytime in the next six seasons. McCaffery’s original contract extension, signed in the summer of 2016, ran through June 2022.
The decision to not announce it? Barta said he prefers to talk contracts before or after the season.
“In hindsight, I’d probably announce it now, knowing the concern and the angst it created. That wasn’t the goal,” he said. “In the future, my preference would be to get the contract done before or after the season and then I don’t have to worry about it.”
That decision has been heavily scrutinized. The Hawkeyes are 12-12 this season and 3-8 in the Big Ten. It’s not been a contract-extension kind of year for McCaffery.
“Most people know, because I’ve been here for 12 years, that when we find someone who matches our values and has success athletically and academically, we want to hang on to them and we want to be competitive.”
When the news broke on FBI investigations into college basketball programs, Barta said he didn’t flinch. That’s part of the value that Barta puts into these deals, same with head football coach Kirk Ferentz.
All coaches should run clean programs. Of course, they don’t. The give from Iowa and Barta was the buyout. Iowa would owe McCaffery a $10.2-million buyout if it elects to fire him before July. That number originally was $4.6 million. The take on McCaffery’s part was his buyout of $2 million if he decided to leave for another job, that’s an increase from $1 million in his previous deal.
“When the FBI thing broke, I knew immediately I didn’t have to worry about that at Iowa, because I trust Fran,” Barta said.
Barta and McCaffery started talking contract this summer and got to the point of a “handshake deal” around the time he started treatment for prostate cancer. The heavy lifting was done on the deal, but it wasn’t finalized. In October, Barta, 54, took an extended leave of absence and had surgery and treatment.
“He was comfortable because we virtually had it done. He trusted me that it would get done when it got done,” Barta said.
The basketball season started and so Barta decided to wait to announce the deal, which was signed Nov. 29. The contract was released. Anyone could’ve filed a Freedom of Information Act request and gotten it. Land of 10 did, and now the optics look secretive.
“I know people are questioning me,” Barta said. “I can’t speak to how people feel about my credibility. I think over 12 years I’ve proven that I care.
“... Every time I make a decision, someone is upset about it. So, if over 12 years enough people have been upset about enough of my decisions, the word credibility, I can’t answer that. I show up every day and I make decisions based on what I think is best, what I think is right. Most of the time, hopefully, it’s right. Sometimes, it isn’t perfect, but we keep moving forward.”
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McCaffery, 58, makes $2.2 million this season. He is in his eighth season at Iowa, where his teams have made three NCAA and three NIT appearances.
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