IOWA CITY, Iowa — Henry B. and Patricia B. Tippie Director of Athletics Chair Gary Barta held a Zoom news conference on Thursday afternoon.
Here are seven takeaways:
The unprecedented cancelations at the end of the winter and beginning of the spring athletic seasons on March 12 has been painful to many. Barta is impressed with how the Hawkeye student-athletes and coaches have handled the situation.
“The resiliency and fortitude is heart-warming,” Barta said. “Everybody has been on the same page, everybody understands we have been using the term shared sacrifice, because everybody has to give differently in how they approach things right now.
“For about two years, our student-athletes and coaches were building a momentum like I’ve never seen before — individual accomplishments, team accomplishments. It was amazing.
“We were having one of the most unbelievable seasons collectively and individually. I’ve been amazed at the resiliency…on the one hand it’s been incredibly difficult. On the other hand, I’m so proud of our student-athletes and coaches in the way they responded.”
About That Shared Sacrifice
Barta is committed to the well-being of the 250-plus employees in the University of Iowa Athletics Department. Moving into the new fiscal year June 30, the department will face financial challenges.
“One of the things our campus did is President Bruce Harrell made a commitment that everybody was going to be employed at least to the end of the semester,” said Barta. “In athletics, we took that out to June 30. We believe we can cover everything without letting anybody go or having any furloughs and cover everything with reserves between now and June 30.
“We have started looking at next year and have started modeling. We have not yet asked anybody to take a pay cut. I anticipate in any of those models, one of the larger expenses in our budget is compensation of 250 full-time employees, so I expect there will be reduction. I am not going to predict who I anticipate, but most everybody, if not everybody, will be involved in what will be a shared sacrifice.”
Commitment to Student-Athletes
Barta says one area that will not be affected will be scholarship opportunities afforded to Hawkeye student-athletes.
“We will be reducing everything that we do except the scholarship bill and that’s usually between $13-14 million. That commitment we’re not planning to take away is scholarship money from any student-athletes.”
If it’s not safe, it’s not to be.
That was a point Barta stressed many times during the 45-minute news conference.
“It has to be safe for the student-athletes in order for us to move forward,” Barta said. “We have to know that the participants can be safe and making sure that they’re safe when they’re competing. That’s No. 1, safety.”
Football or no football? Soccer? Volleyball? Cross Country?
Barta believes it’s all or none when it comes to fall sports returning to campus to begin preparation for the 2020-21 athletic seasons.
“It will come down to if they will be safe when they’re here,” said Barta. “If we’re working at home and if you’re still in your easy chair on Aug. 1, we won’t be having a football season in September. I’m being dramatic and explaining that, but there have to be things that have occurred in our society.
“We could have different schedules for different spots, but we’re not going to say it’s OK for this sport to come back and not that sport. I don’t see any scenario where that makes sense.”
Season Ticket Holders… Stay With Us
Iowa season tickets holders are loyal to the Hawkeyes, so Barta is focused on returning the favor.
“Long before I was here, Hawkeye fans have been loyal to us and we will continue to be loyal to our fans,” said Barta. “We moved our (season ticket) deadline back and we have payment plans for our fans to spread their payments out. We want our season ticket holders to remain season ticket holders, so we’re doing everything we can to accommodate that.
“Right now, we are expecting to have a football season. If we don’t, we’ll cross the bridge of credits or refunds. We’re continuing to talk to our fans. We’re on the phone every day, calling our fans, seeing how they’re doing.
“Everybody wants to get back to normal, whatever the new normal is, but I know a lot of people would feel a little bit of healing once we get back into Kinnick Stadium.”
The Finkbine Clubhouse project and the preliminary stages of constructing a wrestling complex are still in the works.
“There were two big projects, Finkbine (clubhouse) was well underway, so that is nearing completion, minus a kitchen,” Barta said. “We’re excited that we have possession of the new clubhouse, but we have a long way to go before we can really enjoy it.
“We had permission to hire an architect and move forward in planning the wrestling facility, and that’s something that can still be done via Zoom and online. We’re interviewing architects. We have funding from donors to pay for those architects, so we’re going to continue developing and designing the building and try not to let that slow up. Then we’ll have to see how this all goes moving forward.
“Many other smaller projects, and any project that wasn’t well in the queue or funded already have been put on hold as part of spending freeze.”