Gary Barta is hoping for Black Friday finale with Wisconsin, discusses taxes and Kinnick renovation progress

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa athletics director Gary Barta said he is hoping to keep the final regular-season football game on Black Friday even after that matchup switches from Nebraska to Wisconsin.

The first step would be to convince Badgers athletics director Barry Alvarez to switch the date from Saturday.

“We’ve had surface conversations. We haven’t dug in deep,” Barta said Thursday of his talks with Alvarez. “To my knowledge, the Big Ten hasn’t been involved in that conversation.”

The conference announced last fall that it was changing the schedule for the season finale starting with the 2020 season. Instead of closing with Nebraska on the day after Thanksgiving, the Hawkeyes will face Wisconsin on the Saturday after the holiday. That arrangement was to last at least two seasons, with schedules after 2021 revealed later.

Gary Barta discussed a range of topics Thursday, including Kinnick Stadium renovations and football scheduling.

Barta said any change would have to first be agreed to by the two schools involved, then Big Ten Conference officials, a TV network, and finally go to a vote of all league athletic directors.

New Nebraska athletics director Bill Moos has lobbied for getting Iowa back on the schedule for a Black Friday matchup that has occurred since 2011. Barta confirmed that Moos has called him about it.

“If we ever play Nebraska back in that slot, great. If we ever play Wisconsin in that slot, that’s a heck of a border rivalry as well,” Barta said. “I like the idea of playing in that Friday slot and I like the idea of playing in that Friday slot against a rival opponent.”

Barta said his preference is to end every season with the same rival.

“What I like about that is it builds continuity. It builds tradition,” he said. “I think it gets a national audience and if it’s against a border rival, I think it’s going to be a great series.”

On other topics, Barta said:

  • Iowa has sold all 11 loge boxes and 1,300 of its 1,600 club seats in the renovated north end zone at Kinnick Stadium for the next football season. Construction is well under way on the two-year project. The loge boxes contain 11-12 seats each with concrete walls on both sides separating them. They will be outdoors but will have radiant heat and include food and beverage service. Barta said the Hawkeyes had requests from 35 people for those. The club seats are outdoors but give ticket-holders access to indoor amenities that will have more of a “sports bar” feel than the club seats along the sides of Kinnick.
  • The new federal tax law will cost his department about $1 million annually. Organizations like Iowa are required to pay an excise tax for employees it pays salaries of more than $1 million. That doesn’t include the university’s hospital. That leaves football coach Kirk Ferentz and men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery as the two employees making seven figures. Barta will have to factor that into his budget while also bracing for any losses in fundraising. The tax law also ends the deduction that many college athletic donors received for buying things like club seats at sporting events. “Most people historically give because they want to support something. They don’t give because of the tax break,” Barta said. “We had some people pay two or three years in advance (to qualify for the 2017 tax deduction). … We’re still all waiting to see what the fallout is going to be.” Barta's department ran at a deficit the past two years and likely will again after paying out $6.5 million this spring to settle two gender discrimination cases brought by former employees.
  • Iowa submitted data to the Office for Civil Rights on Jan. 30 that it hopes will answer any concerns about gender disparity in financial aid and participation in athletics. That was the next step to resolve a 2 ½-year long probe generated by a Title IX complaint against the Iowa athletic department by former field hockey players. Barta’s department was investigated in 13 areas, and the OCR exonerated it on six of those. Iowa needs to provide more evidence in the other seven in order to avoid sanctions. By April 30, the university will submit data relating to uniforms, facilities, academic tutoring, recruiting, and housing and dining. “We feel confident that we can answer all of their questions in a satisfactory manner,” Barta said.
  • The marketplace dictated the terms of the contract extension Barta gave McCaffery in November, he said. He has no regrets about adding two years — through 2023-24 — to the deal or providing a salary increase that could reach $3 million per year if McCaffery leads the Hawkeyes to another NCAA Tournament. But Barta said he does now regret not announcing the contract amendment. Instead, it came to light last week after a reporter filed a Freedom of Information Act request. “In hindsight, I’d probably announce it now knowing the concern and the angst it created, because that wasn’t the goal,” Barta said. As to whether the appearance that he was hiding the contract had damaged his credibility, Barta replied: “I know people are questioning me. I can’t speak to how people feel about my credibility. I think over 12 years I’ve proven that I care. … Every time I make a decision, someone’s upset about it.”