Gary Barta will slash $15M from Iowa athletic spending in plan that assumes full football and basketball seasons

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — The University of Iowa will trim $15 million from its athletic budget for the coming year as it plans for reduced revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Athletic director Gary Barta announced in a Tuesday news release that the savings will occur in operating expenses and in salary reductions, including a 30% cutback of his own, which was scheduled to hit $1 million this year.

Ominously, Barta added that this forecast assumes that football and basketball games will occur in their entirety with fans in attendance.

"Any interruptions or reduction in these seasons would lead to more significant cuts," the news release said.

Iowa's original budget for athletics in 2020-21 was $127.5 million. That has been scaled back to $112.5 million, with the bulk of that savings in unspecified "reduced operating expenses."

Iowa athletic director Gary Barta announced Tuesday that he is trimming $15 million out of his budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year due to uncertainty over the COVID-19 pandemic.

Top-earning head coaches Lisa Bluder (women's basketball), Tom Brands (wrestling), Kirk Ferentz (football) and Fran McCaffery (men's basketball) have agreed to a one-year, 15% base salary reduction or "contribution back to the athletics department," the release said. Those four coaches were set to make roughly $8.5 million this season. Deputy athletic director Barbara Burke has agreed to a 25% salary reduction.

Other salary cuts are spread across the athletic department on a graduated scale. Iowa typically spends about $46 million annually on salaries for coaches and other athletic support staff.

Those earning above $200,000 will see a 10% base salary reduction; staff making $150,000-$199,999 a 7.5% reduction; salaries of $100,000-$149,999 a 5% reduction; $50,143-$99,999 a 3% reduction; and staff making below $50,143 a 2% salary reduction.

“I care deeply about our staff and recognize a reduction in salary will have a significant impact on many families throughout the department. I want to thank our entire staff for their support and understanding as we have worked through this process,” Barta said in the release. “We are trying to balance making necessary financial cuts with spreading the sacrifice thoughtfully.”

University athletic departments across the nation are being forced to scale back as the COVID-19 outbreak has taken hold, beginning with the cancellation of the lucrative NCAA men's basketball tournament in March. The entire spring sports schedule was scrapped. There are tentative plans to play football this fall, but differing views on whether a full 12-game season is possible, and if so, whether stadiums will be filled to capacity.

Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel generated headlines Monday when he warned that his department was looking at a reduction in revenue of more than $50 million from last year to this.

Other colleges have decided to eliminate certain non-revenue sports. Connecticut, for example, announced last week it was shedding its men's cross country, men's swimming and driving, men's tennis and women's rowing teams.

Iowa announced last week that it would discontinue selling tickets to its seven home football games while re-evaluating how it will handle seating at Kinnick Stadium. The school had sold roughly 40,000 season tickets.

Iowa usually generates $27 million from ticket sales to its home sporting events, the vast majority of that from football.

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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