Iowa looks at replacing softball field

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — An Iowa softball program struggling to generate victories in recent seasons may be getting a new home field, deputy athletic director Barbara Burke said Thursday.

Burke, who is running the department while Gary Barta recuperates from prostate cancer surgery, said at the monthly meeting of the Presidential Committee on Athletics that the university has initiated a feasibility study to look at replacing 18-year-old Pearl Field.

A possible new site would be adjacent to the field hockey and women’s soccer fields on the west side of campus, Burke said.

“We want all of our facilities to be in the top of the (Big Ten Conference),” Burke said, noting that Pearl Field occasionally has “water issues.”

Iowa deputy director of athletics Barbara Burke announced Thursday that the university is researching the need for a new softball complex. That team finished 19-32 a year ago at 18-year-old Pearl Field.

Burke has reviewed other softball fields in the Big Ten and around the nation and determined Iowa is “a little bit behind in that.”

The softball team finished 19-32 in Marla Looper’s eighth year as coach at 1,500-seat Pearl Field. Burke said the thought of replacing the stadium isn’t entirely because of the win-loss record.

“I think that’s going to be important for our program moving forward, regardless of what they’re doing from a competitive standpoint,” Burke said, noting that a new field could also be built at the current location off of 1st Avenue in Coralville. “Our job is to remove all excuses for failure and help our coaches be successful.”

Burke, who has previous experience as an athletic director at Eastern Illinois, joined the Iowa staff last year and was promoted to the No. 2 position in the department this spring. She had previously worked for Barta at Wyoming and had a stint as second in command in the Tulane athletic department.

She said that background has helped her immensely in filling in for Barta.

“I liken it to being an assistant coach and then going 18 inches to that other chair. It’s been invaluable, because I’ve had to make tough decisions. I’ve been through it,” Burke said. “All your coaches, they all want to win and compete, it doesn’t matter what level you’re at. Fortunately, at Iowa we have a few more resources that you don’t have to say ‘no’ quite as much, and so that’s a little more pleasant.”

Burke has been acting athletic director for the past month. She said Barta has been coming in to the office in the mornings recently, but there is no date set for his full-time return.

In the meantime, Burke and senior associate athletic director Matt Henderson have split up Barta’s usual duties.

Burke said she has been enjoying working more directly with all the Hawkeye coaches.

“My job is to knock down roadblocks, help them get there within the parameters and procedures and then financially,” Burke said.

“That’s what motivates me because I feel like I’m helping them be successful.”

Burke, who has more than 30 years of experience in athletic administration, said she believes the two biggest issues facing the NCAA are developing a new transfer policy and oversight of men’s basketball programs in light of recent allegations of cheating.

What would she like to see?

“I think a real solid review of men’s basketball, top-down — the external forces that are playing a role in men’s basketball and how that’s impacting the game,” Burke said. “It’s a great game. We should be proud of it. And so we just want to make sure that we’re running clean programs.”