Barta: Six finalists for Iowa football assistant coach jobs

Mark Emmert

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz has six candidates in mind to fill the two assistant jobs on his staff, athletic director Gary Barta told reporters Thursday.

On-campus interviews with the finalists are ongoing, Barta said, and Ferentz has not yet zeroed in on the specific positions his new hires will coach.

“He’s brought in coaches that he thinks can fill any one of the offensive needs and interviewing them with kind of an open mind and then deciding once he gets the best coaches on board,” Barta said.

Iowa athletic director Gary Barta's relationship with former top aide Jane Meyer is front and center during Meyer's ongoing case.

Barta said there was no timetable for when the hires would be made, adding he didn’t think there was currently an offer out to anyone.

“He’s pretty far down the path,” Barta said. “He’s had some good interviews.”

Ferentz promoted his son, Brian, from offensive line coach to offensive coordinator after Greg Davis retired last month. He then opted not to retain running backs/special teams coach Chris White and wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy.

Davis had also coached quarterbacks, and Kirk Ferentz filled that role last week by bringing back former Hawkeye offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe.

That leaves two openings, with a third anticipated to come in April when the NCAA approves the addition of a 10th assistant coach for FBS programs.

Barta, who also interviews all football assistant coaching candidates, said he and Ferentz were creating a pool of qualified applicants so that a quick offer can be made when the NCAA gives the green light for an extra assistant.

“What we’re worried about a little bit is all of the sudden 120 schools are going to have the ability to add another coach, and the marketplace is going to be scrambling,” Barta said.

Barta directly oversees the football and basketball programs, so he has to approve the salary of anyone Ferentz wants to hire.

“It’s Kirk’s decision,” Barta said of the coaching hires. “He then makes a recommendation. It goes through a process on campus and it’s either approved or not. Most of the time, it’s approved.”

Other topics Barta addressed:

  • He said he didn’t need to sign off on Ferentz’s decision to jettison White and Kennedy, but that he was aware of it beforehand.

“I don’t micromanage, but we communicate significantly. Kirk and I meet every week and we talk regularly,” Barta said. “If (anyone he supervises is) going to make a change in staff or a change in coaches, certainly I know all about it before the decision is finalized.”

  • Barta said he wasn’t planning on sending video from Wednesday’s questionable officiating in Iowa’s men’s basketball game to the Big Ten Conference for review. The Hawkeyes lost in double-overtime at Minnesota after Brady Ellingson was not awarded a timeout with 22 seconds left in regulation and his team ahead 77-75. Instead, referees ruled a held ball, which gave possession to the Gophers and allowed them to score the tying basket. It also appeared that the Minnesota player who grabbed the basketball that Ellingson was cradling was standing out of bounds at the time.

Barta said reviews of officiating in football and men’s basketball games were “part of a regular routine” between Iowa and the Big Ten. “We’ll certainly give our feedback about (Wednesday) and the week before and next week,” he said.

Barta, who was seated two rows behind Iowa’s bench during the game, said he did not speak to any officials on-site.

“I’ve never in my career, 30 years, gotten involved in a conversation with an official at the game. That just wouldn’t be appropriate,” he said. “The coach certainly has the ability to talk with the officials, as they do, and then if it needs any more discussion it can happen during the week.”

  • Barta said a $2.92 million deficit his department ran in 2015-16 was anticipated and “was kind of a perfect storm in a negative way.”

The shortfall came about because ticket revenue declined about $1 million from the previous year, when the football team finished with a disappointing 7-6 record. That fall, the Hawkeyes ran off a 12-0 regular season record and reached the Rose Bowl, triggering bonuses for Ferentz and his staff, meaning Iowa spent $20.3 million in coaching salaries, benefits and bonuses in the fiscal year that ended in June 2016. That was $2.1 million more than the previous year.

The deficit was covered by the athletic department’s reserve fund, which Barta estimated sits between $8-9 million.

“(Iowa had) about a 17 percent drop in (football) season tickets and then an incredible season,” Barta said of 2015. “But you can’t recover all that revenue from ticket sales as the year goes on. And then paying those great bonuses because of the special season.”

As for the current fiscal year, Barta anticipates a balanced budget.

“I think we’re on a pretty good pace right now,” he said.