Iowa sports columnist Chad Leistikow and sports reporter Chris Cuellar look at what Iowa needs to do to not repeat last year's loss to Penn State, this time playing to a night crowd at Kinnick Stadium. Rodney White/The Register
Iowa is doing its best to keep head coach Tom Brands’ wrestling program on top in the college athletics arms race.
The athletic department announced a three-year contract extension for Brands on Friday, while also previewing a “facility feasibility study” that would explore concepts of a standalone practice building outside of Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“Tom embraces the responsibilities associated with leading the Iowa wrestling program,” Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said in a morning release. “He is committed to our philosophy of ‘Win, Graduate, Do It Right.’ There is tremendous momentum behind our wrestling program and I’m excited about the future.”
Brands received his last reported extension in 2015, taking his heavily performance- and incentive-based contract through the 2019-20 season. Friday’s announcement keeps the 12th-year coach as a salaried employee through 2022-23.
A records request to the University of Iowa showed Brands’ new contract increases his base salary incrementally over the next three years: Originally at $177,000 annually to $180,000 in 2017-18, $185,000 in 2018-19, and $190,000 in 2019-20. His base salary is set at $200,000 annually for the newly added three seasons.
The Sheldon native had a base pay of $177,000 in the 2016 fiscal year, according to the Register’s state employee database, but had a total salary of $359,033 after hitting competitive benchmarks and responsibilities.
The Hawkeyes finished fourth, more than 40 points behind Penn State.
His rate of “guaranteed other annual outside income” from I-Club appearances, TV and radio commitments also went up $5,000 per year until topping out at $100,000 in 2020-21. The amended contract also includes longevity incentives, up $10,000 for the coming seasons.
“I’m fortunate to be part of an institution that is committed to providing a world-class experience to its student-athletes,” Brands said.
Associate head coach Terry Brands and assistant coach Ryan Morningstar remain on the same annually renewed contracts they signed in the 2013 fiscal year, according to the university.
Iowa finished renovations on its current space — known as the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex — back in 2011, one year after Brands led the Hawkeyes to their most recent NCAA team title. Those upgrades were included as part of a $47 million addition and update to Carver-Hawkeye Arena that began in 2009, meant to expand practice facilities for men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, and wrestling.
With 10 consecutive top-five finishes at the NCAA Championships, the Hawkeyes remain among the nation’s most prestigious wrestling programs. But Big Ten rivals Penn State and Ohio State have dominated the top of the podium in recent years, and in turn, dedicated significant resources to the sport.
“As part of our ongoing commitment to student-athletes, the department will begin a feasibility study for the potential development of a wrestling practice facility,” Barta said. “The study will allow us to evaluate our options for the continued enhancement of Iowa wrestling.”
That process began Friday by publicly acknowledging the Hawkeyes were interested in moving out of the second-floor space they have occupied since 1983.
Penn State’s Lorenzo Wrestling Complex was built as part of the university’s Rec Hall in 2005 and received renovations in 2016. Ohio State had planned a standalone wrestling facility, but budgetary concerns combined it into a 3,700-seat arena that will also support volleyball, fencing and gymnastics. According to Columbus Business First, the project will cost $49.7 million and be completed in 2019.
Brands expressed his frustration with the 2010-11 renovation process during the civil trial between former senior associate athletic director Jane Meyer and the University of Iowa over the summer. After concerns with the efficiency of the space and issues with plumbing — “the cleanliness, the hygiene, was a disaster,” Brands testified — the Hawkeyes were looking ahead to their next upgrade.
That will likely be most dependent on athletic department donors, suitable space in Iowa City, and cooperation with the post-collegiate Hawkeye Wrestling Club.
“There is a great deal of momentum behind this project and that’s a testament to the support and vision of our fans and leadership,” Brands said. “We expect to be the best. There is no question. There is no starting point. There is no end. It’s a continuous process and this is the next step in that process.”
The Hawkeyes open their next season with the Iowa City Duals on Nov. 17. The 2018 NCAA Championships are slated for March 15-17 in Cleveland.
Iowa head coach Tom Brands discusses Iowa's Saturday improvement after Friday's semifinal struggle.