Iowa AD Gary Barta announces retirement after 17 years at Big Ten school

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IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa athletic director Gary Barta will retire on August 1 after 17 years at the university, the school announced Friday.

Barta, 59, is one of the longest-tenured athletic directors in a Power Five conference. He was hired by Iowa in 2006 after being the AD at Wyoming.

An interim director will be announced next week, Iowa said.

In September, Iowa hired former Ball State athletic director Beth Goetz to be deputy director of athletics and chief operating officer, putting her in position to possibly succeed Barta.

“It has been an absolute privilege and honor to serve in this role the past 17 years,” Barta said in a statement. “This decision didn’t come suddenly, nor did it come without significant thought, discussion, and prayer.”

“That said, I’m confident this is the right time for me and for my family.”

Iowa won four NCAA national team titles and 27 Big Ten team titles during Barta’s tenure. The women’s basketball team is coming off an appearance in the national championship game and the wrestling team is coming off a second-place finish at the NCAA championships.

Barta served as the chairman of the College Football Playoff committee in 2020 and 2021.

He faced heavy criticism over more than $11 million in settlements for lawsuits in recent years alleging racial and sexual discrimination within the athletic department.

Lawsuits filed by former field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum and associate athletics director Jane Meyer led to a $6.5 million payout.

Iowa had to pay $400,000 as part of a Title IX lawsuit brought by athletes after it cut four sports in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the agreement, Iowa reinstated the women’s swimming and diving program and add another women’s sport.

Iowa added women’s wrestling, the first among Power Five schools to compete this year.

A lawsuit brought by former football players alleging racial discrimination within the program was settled for $4.2 million last March, which prompted state auditor Rob Sand to call for Barta’s ouster.

“Gary Barta’s departure is a long time coming given the four different lawsuits for discrimination that cost Iowa more than $11 million,” Sand posted on Twitter.

The university did not allow taxpayer money to be used for the settlement with the former players.

Barta led Iowa through $380 million of facility upgrades, including renovation of Kinnick Stadium, the construction of a new football facility, a basketball practice facility and a training center for the wrestling teams.

Under Barta, Iowa has had just one head football coach (Kirk Ferentz), women’s basketball coach (Lisa Bluder) and wrestling coach (Tom Brands). All were in place when he arrived.

Barta has also come under scrutiny for allowing Ferentz to employee his son, Brian Ferentz, as offensive coordinator. To comply with the university’s nepotism policy, Brian Ferentz reports to Barta.

Iowa athletics department to cover full race bias settlement

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IOWA CITY, Iowa – A race discrimination lawsuit filed against the University of Iowa by former football players will be settled using funds entirely from the school instead of having taxpayer money cover half of the $4.2 million deal, the university’s president said Thursday.

President Barbara Wilson put an end to the original plan that called for $2 million being pulled from the state’s general fund after listening to the public’s concerns and consulting with the Board of Regents, she said in a statement.

The university’s athletics department will reimburse the state for the $2 million, The Des Moines Register reported.

The state’s Appeal Board approved the plan to use taxpayer funds for the settlement in a 2-1 vote on Monday. Board member and State Auditor Rob Sand voted down the proposal, saying the university’s athletics department has the funds to cover the full settlement.

Iowa lawmakers then introduced a bill on Wednesday that would require athletics departments at the state’s regents universities to repay the state for any settlement costs that had not been budgeted for by lawmakers.

The lawsuit was filed in November 2020 by 12 Black former players, including star running back Akrum Wadley and career receptions leader Kevonte Martin-Manley. They alleged they were demeaned with racial slurs, forced to abandon Black hairstyles, fashion and culture to fit the “Iowa Way” promoted by coach Kirk Ferentz, and retaliated against for speaking out.

The players initially sought $20 million in damages plus the firings of athletic director Gary Barta, Ferentz and his son and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz.

Sand agreed that Barta should be fired, noting four discrimination cases totaling nearly $7 million in damages under Barta’s watch.

“I can’t imagine a private company that would still have someone at the helm after four discrimination lawsuits under that person’s leadership,” he said at his news conference Monday.

Wilson has declined to discuss whether Barta will be fired.

Kirk Ferentz has said he was “greatly disappointed” with the settlement and how it was resolved. He said “the parties originally named disagree with the decision to settle, fully believing that the case would have been dismissed with prejudice before trial.”

He added that the coaches were dropped from the lawsuit and “there is no admission of any wrongdoing.”

Damario Solomon-Simmons, a Tulsa-based civil rights attorney who represented the ex-players, blasted Ferentz for his comments, saying Black Hawkeyes players will continue to be at risk of harassment “as long as Kirk Ferentz is in charge.”

Iowa-Northwestern set for Wrigley Field in November

Nikos Frazier/Journal & Courier/USA TODAY NETWORK
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CHICAGO — Wrigley Field will host a college football game for the third time since 2010 when Iowa plays Northwestern next season.

Northwestern and the Chicago Cubs announced that the Wildcats’ home game will be played Nov. 4.

Northwestern played Illinois at Wrigley in 2010 in the MLB ballpark’s first college football game since 1938, and the Wildcats hosted Purdue there in 2021.

Wrigley Field has a long history of hosting football games. The Chicago Bears played there from 1921 to 1970 before moving to Soldier Field. The old Chicago Cardinals also played at Wrigley, as well as DePaul until its program folded in 1939.

Northwestern had been scheduled to play Wisconsin at Wrigley in 2020, but the game was moved to Ryan Field in Evanston because of the COVID-19 pandemic.