Barta: No reason to believe basketball official is biased against Hawkeyes

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said Tuesday he does not think that referee Steve McJunkins is biased against the Hawkeyes’ men’s basketball team.

The question was left open after last week’s news conference addressing a two-game suspension for Iowa coach Fran McCaffery. McCaffery had called McJunkins a “cheater” after a 90-70 loss at Ohio State on Feb. 26. McCaffery said he regretted the episode, but didn’t entirely back away from the accusation.

“I don’t know that,” he said last Wednesday when asked why McJunkins would cheat against his team. “I can’t even speculate to that.”

Barta did not want to revisit the issue Tuesday, but, when pressed, said he has no reason to believe an official is deliberately making calls that favor Iowa opponents.

McCaffery served the first game of his suspension Saturday, an 86-72 home loss to Rutgers. His Hawkeyes next play at Wisconsin at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Iowa athletic director Gary Barta, left, and Fran McCaffery listen to a question during a press conference on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

Barta reiterates that suspended broadcaster is not his employee

Earlier last Wednesday, Barta held a news conference to address the suspension of Iowa radio broadcaster Gary Dolphin. Dolphin has been removed from his duties for the rest of the season after referring to a black Maryland player as “King Kong” on Feb. 19. The suspension was announced by Learfield Sports Properties.

Barta said he was consulted about the discipline for the 22-year “Voice of the Hawkeyes,” but that the decision was ultimately out of his hands. He did say he agreed with the length of the punishment.

Dolphin, who has apologized and accepted his suspension, will return to football broadcasts this spring and be back on the mic for the next men’s basketball season.

“I can’t overrule them,” Barta said of Learfield. “They hire. They pay. They discipline.

“I don’t want to underscore or overplay. He’s their employee, end of story. But they absolutely involve us.”

Big Ten athletic directors will be consulted about next commissioner

Barta said he wasn’t surprised to hear Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany announce Monday that he will retire when his contract expires in June 2020. Delany has held the position since 1989.

“He’s been keeping us apprised of what his plans are,” Barta said. “He’s somebody that’s really had a great impact on college sports. I just love being able to work with him because he really cares about the student-athletes.”

Delany will leave a big void to fill. Barta said the search committee to find Delany’s replacement will consist of the presidents of the 14 Big Ten universities, not the athletic directors. But the ADs will have some voice.

“They have and will continue to ask our opinion of what type of leadership are we looking for in the next commissioner,” Barta said.