UI Basketball Changing Direction

March 15, 2010

G. Barta Press Conference, March 15

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Saying he was surprised it didn’t work out and calling it a painstaking decision, University of Iowa director of athletics Gary Barta released Todd Lickliter from his position as head men’s basketball coach for the Hawkeyes on Monday. In three seasons at the UI, Lickliter compiled a record of 38-58.

“This morning I had a meeting with Todd Lickliter and I announced to him that he would no longer be our men’s basketball coach,” Barta told a gathering of media inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “This was a conclusion of a process, an evaluation.”

Barta said the search for Lickliter’s replacement will begin Monday as well.

“There’s no timeline,” Barta said. “I’m going to hire someone as fast as we possibly can, but not at the expense of finding the right person and the right fit.”

In an opening statement to the 35-minute press conference, Barta highlighted some facts, which he said were the easy things to talk about in a situation like this.

“The first fact is that Todd Lickliter is a tremendous basketball coach. I believed that when I hired him and I still believe it today,” Barta said. “Another fact is that Todd is a tremendous person, someone of high values — values that I share; ethics, all those things that are important to Iowans.

“The facts that aren’t as much fun to talk about, but still facts nonetheless: If you take a look at our competitive record the past three years has not been improving, it still continues to be below where we would expect — including coach Lickliter; our attendance and our season ticket sales have continued to go down. This is not something that started three years ago, but in the past three years it has continued to go down dramatically. Related to that, but beyond just ticket sales, the financial side of the basketball equation: the revenue from ticket sales, the revenue from contributions, the revenue from all other sources related to basketball have continued to decline dramatically. I’ve made the determination under the current circumstances we can’t overcome that hill we haven’t been able to climb.”

The Hawkeyes finished the 2009-10 season with a record of 10-22 overall. Barta said he is “very excited” about the players in the program. He said when they join incoming student-athletes Ben Brust, Cody Larson, Devyn Marble and Zach McCabe, the UI will be able to compete in the Big Ten Conference.

Not only did Barta call Lickliter a terrific coach, but he said the two had what he would characterize as a terrific relationship.

“In the end, it’s my responsibility to create an environment to get this basketball program back on track,” Barta said. “I’m not excited about how we’ve got to this point or how I have to proceed (Monday), but what I am excited about is going forward with this great program. Our current challenges are real, but they’re short-term.”

“I don’t want to bring anybody here on false pretenses. I’m going to re-emphasize our history, I’m going to re-emphasize the positives, I’m going to re-emphasize that we invest and are committed to the sport of men’s basketball. I’m a positive person and I believe this is a great opportunity for someone. I’m going to find somebody who’s excited about taking that bigger picture and bringing Iowa basketball back to where we all know it can be and where it has been.”
Gary Barta
UI director of athletics

Barta said he would look for a coach with many of the same characteristics as Lickliter:

“We’re going to be looking for a person who’s a proven leader, a winner, someone who has competed for championships,” Barta said. “They need to be committed to the student-athlete; (the student-athletes) need to excel on the court, but they also have to be committed to earning a degree from the University of Iowa.”

Barta said the next head coach for men’s basketball will be someone who shares the value systems of the state of Iowa, the University of Iowa and of him personally.

“It will be somebody who is going to take this talented group, convince them they can do this, and with as little disruption as possible, get back up and running,” Barta said.

The new coach will have loads of positives to build upon. Over the next two years, a $43 million addition and renovation project will enhance Carver-Hawkeye Arena, already one of the premiere college basketball facilities in the nation. When filled to capacity at 15,500, it is one of the most imposing venues for opponents to visit.

“We have great fan support,” Barta said. “We haven’t seen it in Carver the past several years, but I know it won’t take much to get that arena full again and rocking. I know when that arena’s full, there’s no better basketball environment in America.”

Lickliter, 54, coached the Hawkeyes for three seasons, compiling a 39.6 winning percentage. His first win at the UI came Nov. 9, 2007 against Idaho State — a 58-43 decision inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The final win was against Indiana, 73-57, on Feb. 28, 2010.

One of the biggest victories by the Hawkeyes during the Lickliter era was a 43-36 upset over No. 6 Michigan State on Jan. 12, 2008.

Lickliter’s tenure as head coach — from 2007-10 — is the shortest stint for a head Hawkeye since George Raveling replaced Lute Olson and was head coach from 1984-86.

Barta said he would honor all pieces of Lickliter’s contract, which will continue to pay $800,000 per year for the next three years. Barta emphasized that money, as well as the money to hire a new coach, will be drawn from athletic department funds and will not use any university funds or state tax dollars.

“He acted professionally, like he has in any endeavor we’ve undertaken or any discussion we’ve had,” Barta said, when asked how Lickliter reacted to Monday’s meeting. “The reality is, it’s been hard on myself, it’s been hard on him, it’s been hard on his staff. He was a consummate professional. It was a difficult conversation, but he handled it in a professional way.”

When Barta hired Lickliter in the spring of 2007, he said he hoped the 2007 Division I national Coach of the Year would retire a Hawkeye.

“I’m not somebody who desires turnover,” Barta said. “I would love to never have to hire another coach again because that would mean that we’re incredibly successful and I can just continue to provide them resources to be successful. This is not something I enjoy doing.”