Gary Barta expects major financial changes to come to Iowa athletic department

Gary Barta.

By Tyler Devine

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said on Thursday that major financial changes could be coming to the Iowa athletic department due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Barta said during the virtual press conference that the department has frozen its hiring and spending and has made a commitment to keeping its 250 employees employed through at least June 30 when the department’s fiscal year ends.

But much like the pandemic, the fluidity of the situation makes predictions difficult.

“We believe we can cover everything without cuts in pay right now without letting anybody go or any furloughs and cover everything with reserves between now and June 30,” Barta said. “Now, again, I have to wait and see as things occur between now and June 30.”

The impact of COVID-19 has been felt all over, with numerous losses of life and a financial strain that has almost everyone, including the Iowa athletic department.

Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz and wrestling coach Tom Brands each held press conferences recently and both had similar messages to Barta in that there are things bigger than sports happening right now.

“I wake up every morning, and before I start thinking about the athletic department, I think about, obviously, my family, but I also think about what’s going in our world,” Barta said. “It’s unlike nothing I’ve ever experienced. And so, I do pause every moment in thought and prayer for frontline workers.”

Barta said that he anticipates most, if not all, of the athletic department employees will likely have to endure some sort of pay reduction and that all of the department’s budgets will take a hit, except for the scholarship budget.

“Our scholarship bill is usually somewhere between $13 and 14 million and that is a commitment that we’re not planning to take away scholarship money from any student-athletes," Barta said. 

However, that scholarship budget might be a little tighter depending on how many spring sports athletes decide to return.

The NCAA ruled in favor of an extra year of eligibility for all spring sports athletes on Mar. 30.

Barta said that all seniors would be welcomed back were they to choose to do so, in stark contrast to Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, who announced on Thursday that the school will not be allowing seniors the come back and play the extra year.

The NCAA did provide some leeway in its ruling with regard to financial aid and roster sizes, according to Barta.

“Dynamically, when you’re putting a team together, it has some potential challenges,” Barta said. “At the end of the day, once the NCAA said it was allowable, they did give some latitude. If a senior comes back, there are financial aid limits on each team. There are roster limits on the sport of baseball. Those will be modified by the number of seniors that come back. The roster size in baseball is 35. If three of those seniors come back, they can have a total of 38.”