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Kirk Ferentz's Future Son-in-Law on Football Administrative Staff; Barta in the Dark

Iowa head coach hires future son-in-law for administrative position and does not tell UI human resources or athletic director Gary Barta. "I didn't see any reason to," he says.

Christian Petersen

Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz appointed Tyler Barnes, a previous graduate assistant, to an administrative assistant role in January 2013 without telling Gary Barta or University of Iowa human resources that Barnes was engaged to his daughter, Erin Jordan of the Gazette reported yesterday:

Tyler J. Barnes, 27, was hired in January 2012 as a temporary administrative assistant with a one-year appointment and an annual salary of $32,000, according to documents The Gazette obtained through an Open Records request.

About six months into the job, Barnes got engaged to Joanne Ferentz, 25. An online wedding registry shows they plan a July 6 wedding.

The UI's policy on nepotism says conflicts of interest in employment can arise not only from blood relationship, but through marriage, "intense personal friendships or significant business relationships." When conflicts can't be avoided, the UI requires supervisors to create plans for managing the conflict.

"If he's reporting within football operations and the reporting line goes to the head coach and he's becoming the son-in-law of the head coach, that becomes a conflict," said Sue Buckley, UI vice president for human resources.

No conflict-of-interest review was done for Barnes, even after his engagement. Ferentz said he didn't think he needed to tell Athletics Director Gary Barta about the change in Barnes's personal status.

"I didn't see any reason to," Ferentz told The Gazette.

"My No. 1 responsibility is to do my job as well as I can. Anytime we hire anybody, we are going to try to get the best possible person we can. Tyler's expertise is in operations, recruiting and technology. His strengths complement what we have."

Barta said he didn't know Barnes and Joanne Ferentz were engaged until The Gazette asked about it.

"There are a lot of things going on in people's personal lives that I don't know about," Barta said. But he doesn't think Barnes or Ferentz was trying to hide the relationship.

"I believe people didn't think about it," Barta said.

Barnes was previously a student assistant and graduate assistant within the Iowa football program, though the report does not indicate whether he joined the staff before or after his relationship with Joanne Ferentz began. Ferentz appointed Barnes to fill the position previously held by Levar Woods when Woods was promoted to linebackers coach last winter. Ferentz did not mention Barnes' relationship with his family when he first appointed him to the position in January 2012, nor when he requested the one-year appointment be extended in November 2012. In the interim, the couple was engaged and purchased a house. Barnes received a $6,000 raise for his second season in the administrative assistant role, but makes only $38,000 per year.

Even with the raise, an administrative assistant is generally paid an absurdly low wage for the amount of work he does; this is not a "make-work" job by any means, and any implication to the contrary would be wrong. But Barnes' appointment, and Ferentz's apparent end-around run past human resources and the athletic director's office, came in the same month that he had appointed his son as offensive line coach. In that circumstance, Ferentz and Barta created an absurd bureaucratic hierarchy -- in which Brian Ferentz reported to Barta, rather than to Ferentz -- in order to circumvent University nepotism policies. It is hard to imagine that, while in the process of hiring his son, Kirk Ferentz would not have realized that the concurrent appointment of his daughter's soon-to-be fiancé to an administrative position would not run afoul of the University's nepotism policy, as well, and it is baffling that he would not realize it when extending the appointment after their engagement became official.

Last year, Marcus Coker got in some trouble with the cops. Ferentz didn't think to disclose it to Barta or Sally Mason, and it ended in Coker being suspended for a bowl game and eventually leaving the program.* Two years ago, 13 players ended up in the hospital after a January workout. Nobody acknowledged the severity of what had happened -- Ferentz even stayed on the recruiting trail -- while it became a national story. In 2008, the athletic department's "informal investigation" of the Everson/Satterfield incident damn near cost Mason her job and led to the firing of the University's legal counsel and a vice president. This is clearly not on the level of those non-disclosures, but we have to ask just how many times Ferentz is going to be allowed to use the "I didn't see any reason to tell anyone" line to excuse his failure to disclose relevant information to UI administration, the press, or the man who is supposed to be his boss, before there are repercussions.

* -- To be fair to Kirk, the substance of that one was "strait bullshit," but it still probably should have gone up the chain.