Gary Barta hopes fans give Hawkeyes a chance
IOWA CITY, Ia. – Gary Barta has gotten your emails. He knows you're upset. He knows you might be mulling whether to renew your Iowa football season tickets in 2015.
To that, the Iowa athletic director hopes you'll give Hawkeye football another chance – if not now, then down the road.
"We're going to ask everybody to come back," Barta said Wednesday in a 13-minute huddle with reporters following a rare mid-January football news conference with coach Kirk Ferentz. "We're going to say thank you. If somebody chooses not to come back, my response is, we can't wait to get you back as soon as possible."
Barta understands the current landscape. His inbox is a barometer for that. He also can take a look at the 2015 home football schedule, where he'll see few marquee matchups – the best ones look to be against Minnesota and Pittsburgh.
Coming off a 7-6 season that, in Barta's words, did not meet expectations isn't sitting well. And he hears that. His words seem braced for a dip in attendance – the average crowds were 67,125 in 2013 and 67,511 in 2014, about 3,000 fans shy of Kinnick Stadium's capacity.
"There might be some parts of truth inside your criticism," Barta said. "But you certainly can't change course every time criticism occurs. So you stick to your core values. You stick to what you know and what you do well."
That means sticking with Ferentz for a 17th year.
And he plans to market Ferentz's brand of football to the fans, and the fact that Iowa has dug itself out of program ruts in 1999, 2007 and 2012.
"You promote the fact that we've been here before. You promote the fact that we have a leader in Kirk who I believe in, I think most our fans believe in," Barta said. "For those who said Midwest football or Big Ten football can't work anymore, that's not necessarily true. (National champion) Ohio State, as Kirk pointed out, has some tremendous student-athletes, but they ran a pretty power offense and defense."
Barta pointed to Iowa's 26-24 loss to Wisconsin, a Nov. 22 game under the Kinnick lights that saw an electric crowd.
"We didn't win that game," Barta said. "But I would argue that our fans will come back for that environment and that style of play. So to say our style of play is no longer relevant, I don't agree with that."