Iowa athletic department brings in $5.7 million more than it spent

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — For the second consecutive year, Iowa’s athletic department brought in millions of dollars more in revenue than it spent.

And that is allowing Hawkeye athletic director Gary Barta to build up a reserve fund that is now roughly $4 million, he told the Register on Thursday.

“One of the goals I have is to get it to $10 million,” Barta said. “There’s no mandate. We’re going to have debt service to pay every year. I want to make sure that, if we ever have a year where we fall short, we can pay our bills.”

Iowa’s athletic department generated $152 million in revenue in 2018-19, with expenses totaling $146.3 million, according to its annual financial report to the NCAA, which was made public this week.

The previous year, there was $7 million more in revenue ($137.1 million) than spending ($130.1 million).

Barta said the extra money helps to pay for university projects, is spent on sports facilities or put into an athletic department reserve fund that was once as high as $12 million. That fund took a hit in 2017 when the athletic department paid out $6.5 million to settle high-profile gender-discrimination lawsuits with two former employees.

The Hawkeyes saw a spike in revenue in 2018-19 primarily in three areas:

  • Donor contributions increased by $8.2 million, up to a record $35.4 million. Much of that was related to the north end zone project in Kinnick Stadium.
  • Media rights fees generated $45.1 million, or $2.7 million more than the previous year.
  • And ticket sales, which tend to fluctuate, were $1.9 million higher than in 2017-18, at $27.2 million across all sports.

Offsetting those increases, in part, was the fact that Iowa spent $31 million on facilities debt, which was $10.1 million above 2017-18 (again, much of it related to the north end zone), and $24.8 million on coaches’ salaries. That was a jump of $2.3 million from the previous year.

Iowa typically ranks seventh in the 14-team Big Ten Conference when it comes to athletic budgets.

Iowa athletic director Gary Barta says his department now has about $4 million in reserve after back-to-back years in which revenue greatly outpaced spending.

Barta prefers national solution on names, images and likenesses

Two Iowa lawmakers introduced a bill Jan. 21 that would allow college athletes in the state to benefit financially from the use of the names, images and likenesses. Barta said he doesn’t work directly with legislators in such instances, but the university does have a liaison to the state Capitol, who asked for the athletic director’s input.

“I think a national solution is the best way to go,” Barta said, reiterating his past stance that the U.S. Congress create a law rather than to see the issue governed state-by-state.

“Everybody, in principal, would like students to have as much rights as they can. But where does that start and stop so we don’t have boosters inappropriately giving money to recruits? Or how do we manage it so it doesn’t lead to student-athletes becoming employees? It’s a tricky topic, but everybody wants to see if we can make it better than it is now.”

The NCAA has a task force addressing the issue, with recommendations expected this spring. Barta is not a member of that group.

Barta says university working to ensure safety of marching bands

The Iowa Board of Regents announced this week that the investigation has been closed regarding allegations of mistreatment of Hawkeye Marching Band members after the Cy-Hawk football game in Ames on Sept. 14. There was not enough evidence to make a determination of what occurred, the board said.

But both universities are working to ensure a safe environment at future football games, Barta said, and that includes band members, athletes and fans from both teams. The Cyclones play at Kinnick on Sept. 12.

“They signed up to be in the Hawkeye Marching Band to have fun. We don’t ever want them to experience what they went through again,” Barta said.

Barta does not oversee the band. But he said he, along with University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld, have met with the musicians, and he believes they are satisfied with the outcome.

“I get the sense that they appreciate how hard we’re working on this. They had a great experience the rest of the year,” Barta said.

Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.

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