Iowa will experiment with Friday spring football game

Mark Emmert

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa will hold its spring football game on a Friday night this year as a one-year experiment, athletic director Gary Barta told reporters Tuesday.

The scrimmage, typically held on a Saturday, will start at either 7 or 8 p.m. on April 21.

“Just trying something different,” Barta said. “(Coach) Kirk (Ferentz) is constantly trying to think of ways that are fun and exciting.”

Iowa athletic director Gary Barta's relationship with former top aide Jane Meyer is under the microscope.

The Hawkeyes have concluded their spring practices with a set of live drills, rather than an actual game, for years. That still may be the case, but having the game on a Friday night might also allow for it to be televised by the Big Ten Network, either live or tape-delayed.

Barta said the university doesn’t get hung up on attendance numbers for its spring game, saying the crowd size will likely depend on the weather, as it always does.

“If we did, we would probably run it differently. We would probably run more game environment. We’d probably do things that are more of fan interest,” Barta said.

“Kirk wants to make sure that he gets through spring ball evaluating those who are healthy enough to be out there. He wants to make sure he gets through spring ball with everybody not getting injured. And then, if we can build some fan excitement and especially, maybe, fans who don’t always come to the seven home games — that’s really what it’s all about.”

On other topics Tuesday, Barta said:

  • There has been no delay in signing the new contract for Ferentz’s son, Brian, who was promoted to offensive coordinator in January. Brian Ferentz, formerly the offensive line coach, is still operating under his old deal, paying him $425,000 annually. Kirk Ferentz hired three new assistants in February. “One of the things Kirk wanted to do is get his staff completed. He does have a budget, so he wanted to see what he was going to pay some of the new coaches and then sit down and figure out with his pool of money what he’s going to pay (Brian),” Barta said. “His contract will most likely be retroactive to his date of hire.”
  • He hasn’t given a moment’s thought to the latest rumors that men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery may be pursued by other teams this offseason. McCaffery was labeled as one of five possibilities to be the new coach at Missouri in one report Tuesday. “Fran and I have a great relationship. Fran and (his wife) Margaret love being here. Fran has enjoyed his time, he’s been well taken care of, and, I promise you, Fran’s focus is not that — it’s playing Indiana,” Barta said.
  • The school has put in “aggressive bids” to host men’s and women’s NIT games if those teams aren’t selected for the NCAA Tournament. The bids involve pledging to meet those tournaments’ financial minimum requirements, which typically means guaranteeing a crowd size. The women would almost certainly get a home game if they are not selected for the NCAA Tournament on Monday. That requires a guarantee of 6,500 fans for a first-round game and 7,500 for a second-round game. The Hawkeyes (17-13) lost in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament last week and are a longshot to be picked for the NCAA Tournament. They averaged 4,582 fans at home games this season. The men would have to earn a home game by getting a high enough seed in the 32-team NIT. The Hawkeyes (18-13) open play in the Big Ten Tournament by facing Indiana at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in Washington, D.C. Two victories in that tournament would likely get them into the NCAA field when it is announced Sunday. “We have a great track record of drawing strong crowds” to NIT games, Barta said.
  • He is curious to see how many Hawkeye fans attend the Big Ten men’s tournament when it is held in the Verizon Center for the first time. He pointed to strong crowds when Iowa has played men’s basketball games in New York City in recent years as reasons for optimism. “There will be some of our fans who enjoy going out east from the Midwest. But we also experienced in New York a lot of our eastern Hawkeyes — it’s just a great opportunity for them to more easily see the team,” Barta said.