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University of Iowa longtime athletic director Gary Barta announced his retirement Friday. He will officially step down on August 1.
Barta, 59, has been the athletic director at Iowa for 17 years, making him the second-longest-serving AD in the Big Ten conference behind Ohio State’s Gene Smith.
Barta has played a large role in college athletics in general, including a recently completed three-year stint as a member of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee. Served as CFP Committee Chair in 2020 and 2021.
“This decision did not come suddenly and did not come without thought, discussion and prayer,” Barta said in a statement issued by the school. “As I thought, I have come to the conclusion that there is never a good time to walk away… because there is always more to be done. However, I am confident that this is the right time for me and my family.”
His tenure included solid success on the field. According to his Iowa resume, the school has won 11 Big Ten championships since the fall of 2020. The Iowa women’s basketball team, led by superstar Caitlin Clark, played for the national title in 2023.
The Iowa men’s basketball team has won at least 20 games in each of the past four seasons and won the Big Ten tournament title in the 2021-22 season.
Meanwhile, the football team has composed 10 consecutive winning seasons under head coach Kirk Ferenc. This success included a 2015 season that saw the team appear in a Big Ten game and earn a trip to the Rose Bowl. The Hawkeyes also played for the Big Ten title in 2021.
“For someone to have such a long time in Iowa, and the impact he’s had is really extraordinary and speaks to who he is as a person and the amazing work he did there,” the Ohio native told ESPN. “He has hired some outstanding coaches and is a huge influence on Iowa and intercollegiate athletics as a whole.”
Off the field, Barta’s tenure has been marked by several high-profile lawsuits, which have seen Iowa pay more than $10 million since 2017. That included a settlement of more than $4 million to a group of black former Iowa football players who sued university due to discrimination. There was also $6.5 million in damages in 2017 over the firing of a former field hockey coach. A former senior athletic director also won $1.4 million in damages in 2017 for a discrimination lawsuit.
In addition, the school announced this month that it is fully cooperating with the sports betting investigation and that the school has “received information about 111 individuals,” though only 26 of the athletes are current athletes.
Barta’s retirement doesn’t come as a huge surprise to the college athletics industry. In September 2022, the school hired Beth Goetz, who was the current athletic director at Ball State, to become the vice athletic director and chief operating officer.
Because Goetz stepped down as sitting athletic director, this hiring led to the belief that Goetz might end up replacing Barta in the near future. She will be the favorite for the position. The school said a tentative announcement would be announced next week.
“The body of work at Iowa — it’s had its share of disagreements, as does everyone else — but the structure of the business is very good,” Bob Bowlsby, former Big 12 commissioner and director of athletics at Iowa State, told ESPN. “I’m glad he’s out on his own terms and I hope he’s enjoying his retirement.”