Jan. 29, 2013
IOWA CITY, Iowa — It’s an exciting time to be a director of athletics if, the topsy-turvy that comes with conference realignment is your cup of tea.
“Wow, what a ride we’ve been on over the last five years,” University of Iowa Director of Athletics Gary Barta said when asked about the expansion of the Big Ten Conference from 12 teams to 14 and national conference re-alignment in general.
“Rutgers and Maryland… I think they’re both terrific partners. Time will tell, but hopefully based on principle, based on strategic thinking, we’ll look back on this 10 years from now and we’ll say, `Wow, that was a brilliant move,'” Barta said.
Conference expansion is just one of a long list of topics Barta addressed during an 80-minute interview earlier this month. Graduation rates, long-term financial planning, long-term facility planning, the reorganization in the UI Athletics Department’s academic student services and compliance areas, and “Legends” and “Leaders” were among the others.
Now we roll up our sleeves,” continued Barta on the topic of conference expansion. “So it feels like they’re a great fit. Now we have to figure out what goes with that. How do you figure out divisions? We made a decision (a couple years ago) and split into two divisions. Do we put one in one, one in the other, or do we look at geography?”
What follows is an edited excerpt of a portion of the first “One-on-One with Gary Barta.” A transcript of the full interview will be available exclusively inside the February 2013 edition of Hawk Talk Monthly presented by Transamerica, which will be available online the afternoon of Jan. 31. A video of the interview will also be available at that time inside Hawkeye All-Access, the multi-media portal of hawkeyesports.com.
Rutgers and Maryland… I think they’re both terrific partners. Time will tell, but hopefully based on principle, based on strategic thinking, we’ll look back on this 10 years from now and we’ll say, `Wow, that was a brilliant move.”
hs.com: You’ve talked about improvements, upgrades, and expansions in the context of facilities. How about from the context of the Big Ten Conference?
Gary Barta: Before I get specific, my first comment is wow, what a ride our country, NCAA athletics has been on over the last five years. What has occurred in the last five to 10 years, it’s really hard to keep track of in some ways.
That being said, one of the things I’ve always appreciated about the Big Ten Conference is stability. Another of the things I’ve appreciated is our principles and values.
So we added Penn State to the conference many years ago. I would be hard-pressed to find many people who don’t think that was a brilliant move in hindsight. I recall there was a lot of speculation when they were added…why is the Big Ten adding Penn State? It was visionary, there was a fit, and it has worked out well.
Then there was that period where we were having discussions…should we change as a conference? That was about two and a half, three years ago, and we spent almost two years studying it. We had created our principles. Any addition would have to fit academically, athletically, culturally, geographically. We wanted to make sure, as much as possible, it was a contiguous footprint because we have great value in all those things in our conference today.
So, we end up only adding Nebraska because it had to add value, too. Financially it had to make sense. So at the time we only added Nebraska and we put it on the shelf.
Now, fast forward to the specific question you asked, and that’s what about Rutgers? What about Maryland? I can tell you that those two schools were on the list three years ago when we were beginning this process. So were many others.
Rutgers and Maryland… I think they’re both terrific partners. Time will tell, but hopefully based on principle, based on strategic thinking, we’ll look back on this 10 years from now and we’ll say, “Wow, that was a brilliant move.”