Gary Barta expected to announce retirement after 17 years at Iowa State

Iowa City — For the first time in nearly two decades, the University of Iowa will seek new leadership at the helm of the athletics-hockey department.

Gary Barta, 59, athletics director since August 2006, whose tenure has seen four NCAA team titles, 27 Big Ten Conference team titles, $380 million in sports facility upgrades and construction and $650 million in special support for athletics — announced Gary Barta, 59. And other awards – announced his retirement Fri.

Barta’s retirement takes effect Aug. 1, though his contract wasn’t set to expire in June 2024. He earned about $1.2 million in fiscal year 2022, according to the state employee payroll database. UI is expected to name an interim athletics director next week.

Under Barta’s retirement agreement, the university will pay him his “current base salary, deferred compensation, and all applicable University benefits for the duration of his employment.” He will also receive compensation for unused vacation and sick time.

UI also agreed to provide health insurance to Barta and his wife through September 4, 2028.

The agreement also opens the door for him to look for a job elsewhere, with a waiver of a 12-month future work limitation and 120-day notice requirement in his contract. If he becomes eligible for health insurance elsewhere, UI will no longer pay.

Barta did not appear in public to announce his departure, but said in a statement that his retirement “did not come suddenly, nor did it come without thought, discussion and prayer.”

“As I thought, I have come to the conclusion that there is no right time to walk away… because there is always more to be done,” he said. “Having said that, I am confident that this is the right time for me and my family.”

Friday’s announcement marks a sharp contrast from when Barta said earlier this year that he gave retirement “no consideration.”

“When President (Barbara) Wilson first started, I told her I didn’t plan on going anywhere,” Barta told the Gazette after the Presidential Commission on Athletics meeting Feb. 28. “If you take me in, we’ll keep it going.”

Regarding his contract, which expires next year, Barta said he is “not worried about it”.

“I’ve been here for 17 years,” he said then.

During Barta’s tenure, the state settled more than $11 million in legal deals regarding gender and racial discrimination in the athletics department he oversaw. Just last month, Democratic state auditor Rob Sand voted against settling a football discrimination lawsuit as long as Barta stays in his job. UI Athletics later agreed to cover $2 million of the more than $4 million football discrimination settlement.

“Gary Barta’s departure will come a long time ago,” Sand said in a statement on Friday.

“Discrimination requires accountability,” the auditor said in a statement. “The University of Iowa must make public all the terms of his departure.”

Controversies under Bart’s watch include discrimination lawsuits that resulted in a $6.5 million settlement of former field hockey coach Tracy Griesbaum and co-director of athletics Jane Mayer. a $4.2 million settlement for former football players alleging racial discrimination; and a $200,000 settlement to former assistant track coach Michael Scott.

UI also had to pay $400,000, bring back women’s swimming and diving and add women’s wrestling as part of a Title IX settlement after Barta attempted to cut four sports during COVID-19. Men’s gymnastics, tennis, swimming and diving remained on the chopping block.

Also under Barta, more than 55 former players came forward with allegations of a culture of racism and bullying in the football program years ago, with former coach Chris Doyle at the heart of many of them.

Most recently, 26 current athletes and full-time employees were included in the Sports Betting investigation.

Highlights of Barta’s tenure include Iowa’s national platform, facility improvements and success on the field.

He was an influential voice on the national college sports scene during his time at Iowa City, serving as chairman of the college football committee and on the NCAA Division I Board.

Barta also oversaw upgrades to football, wrestling, soccer, rowing, and other sports facilities totaling more than $380 million.

Women’s basketball graduates as runner-up nationally and has won multiple Big Ten regular season or tournament titles. Football has won two Big Ten West titles.

Men’s basketball won the Big Ten Tournament title in 2022 and has four straight March Madness games (except in 2020 when there was no tournament due to COVID-19) for the first time since 1984-89.

“Much of the success of our program has been a direct result of Gary’s vision to improve Carver’s Hawkeye,” men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffrey said in a statement.

Men’s wrestling has claimed 13 NCAA individual champions and four NCAA team titles. Lisa Cellucci of Iowa is the only hockey coach to lead teams to the national quarterfinals in the past four years.

However, several of the head coaches behind this success arrived at Iowa under former athletic directors. One of Kristen Grant’s last hires was Lisa Bluder, the women’s basketball coach, in 2000. Football coach Kirk Ferentz was hired by Bob Bowlsby in 1998 and men’s wrestling coach Tom Brands in 2006.

Barta’s 17-year tenure is among the longest for Power Five athletic directors and the longest in Iowa since Grant was Iowa’s women’s athletic director for 27 years until 2000.

“Gary’s accomplishments at the University of Iowa are significant, and our coaches and student-athletes have achieved tremendous success on and off the field during his tenure,” UI President Wilson said in a statement. “I am grateful for his leadership as Hawkeye and wish him well in his retirement.”


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