Fran McCaffery reacts to an 83-77 overtime loss to Tennessee in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Chad Leistikow, Hawk Central
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Under the terms of his contract, which runs through the 2023-24 basketball season, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery is required to inform the athletics director if he were to inquire about or apply for a position elsewhere.
And Gary Barta confirmed to the Register on Thursday afternoon that no such conversations have taken place between the two.
“He would have to get that (permission) from me,” Barta said in a telephone interview. “And he and I have not talked at all about any jobs other than the Iowa Hawkeyes.”
So the only way there’s truth to the rumor that circulated Wednesday and Thursday that McCaffery had interviewed with Arkansas representatives would be if McCaffery wasn’t telling Barta the truth.
From Barta’s perspective, this was a non-story from the get-go. If his basketball coach was job hunting without his knowledge, that would be an absurdly reckless move — opening up the possibility of being fired with cause.
That's why Barta chuckled as he spoke about how the Arkansas talk took on a life of its own this week, with flight-tracking apps showing private planes going from northwest Arkansas to Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. Fans and media connected some dots, wondering if something was up. Which is why the Register sought an interview with Barta about the matter.
Barta, who is at the Final Four in Minneapolis, said he has no reason to believe McCaffery would be unhappy with his situation in Iowa City.
With a $400,000 raise that kicked in when Iowa qualified for the NCAA Tournament, McCaffery’s annual pay was boosted to $2.7 million for the 2019-20 season. That salary still would put him ninth out of 12 public-school coaches in the Big Ten Conference, according to USA TODAY Sports estimates — and be dwarfed by the $3.57 million annual average on the seven-year deal Fred Hoiberg just received at Nebraska.
Asked if he felt McCaffery was fairly compensated at Iowa, Barta replied with a firm yes.
"We have a great contract with Fran,” he said.
Under the terms of an extension McCaffery signed on Nov. 29, 2017, he would owe the university $2 million if he took another job before July 1, 2022. Conversely, McCaffery would be due $7.6 million from the university if he is fired without cause between July 1, 2019, and July 1, 2020.
“As a result of a contract that has several years on it and a real nice raise, he and I are both comfortable with where he’s at,” Barta said. “I won’t speak for him, but we have been lock-step along the way.”
There could be other openings that come about if, say, Mick Cronin were to leave Cincinnati for Virginia Tech. But Barta remained confident that McCaffery isn’t going anywhere else.
Conversely, Barta said he never wavered in his support for McCaffery during a season that experienced some turmoil — from the two suspensions of radio broadcaster Gary Dolphin to the two-game suspension for McCaffery himself for poor behavior to a late-season slide that dropped the team to a No. 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
But the Hawkeyes finished 23-12 and reached the round of 32 of the NCAAs, a combination that triggered $105,000 in contract bonuses in addition to a raise that increased the total value of McCaffery's pay over the life of the contract by $2.15 million.
McCaffery is the second-winningest coach in Iowa history, with a 174-132 mark in nine seasons. He has gone 78-86 in Big Ten play (a .476 winning percentage).
“I don’t worry when I hear about cheating, scandals or FBI inquiries because I trust Fran. He does things the right way,” Barta said. “He’s taken us back to that level, where any given year, we have a chance to have a special season.”