Gary Barta is a man incapable of admitting he made a mistake and by virtue of that, he is a man incapable of learning from a mistake.
His mistakes have been many and they’ve all been embarrassing. There was the field hockey controversy where, legally speaking, the Iowa athletic department was found to be discriminatory. There was a full-fledged Title IX investigation. There was a controversy with the rowing team. There was the mishandling of the retirement of a softball coach and the subsequent destruction of a once-prideful program. There was the rhabdomyolysis incident that if it happened now, would have probably resulted in the firing of someone in the football program. There was the mess with the announcement of Fran McCaffery’s most recent contract. There was the first Gary Dolphin episode. There’s now a second Gary Dolphin episode — who, I should add before we go any further, made a comparison that has deep roots in racist tropes and is deserving of the criticism he’s received — that was mishandled beyond belief. There’s a number of others, but this is already a massive wall of text.
The primary issues in all of these? There wasn’t transparency or honesty in how any of these situations and controversies were handled. Whenever the storm rises, Barta hides behind a wall of lies and insulates himself with people who will say yes to him.
That’s not a healthy way to run an athletic department, much less an institution in one of the most important conferences in American collegiate sports. You shouldn’t be able to put a long-time employee on leave — for the second time — in a season and throw out a press release and expect it to blow over. You can’t just make decisions and expect not to have to answer for them.
It is simply embarrassing. As a collective alumni and fan base, we’ve let this happen and let it continually slide. Barta isn’t under any pressure to make Iowa win games or have to answer for his mistakes that go beyond the standings. He, in fact, gets rewarded for it — just check out his most recent contact or the fact that he’s now a sitting member of the College Football Playoff committee.
I have been preaching about this for a long time. I don’t like the man. He’s sexist and arrogant and aloof and cares about one thing and one thing only — how he can make sure the donors keep on giving money to the university.
That’s the only thing he’s good at and perhaps it’s enough for the powers at be to keep him in place. As long as he keeps lining the universities pockets and, by extension, those in power, he keeps the status quo.
But the status quo doesn’t feel very good right now. Can you honestly sit around and say you feel good about the direction things have gone since Barta took over in 2006? The second Iowa manages to finagle itself out of one embarrassing controversy it finds itself mired in another. It’s like clockwork.
No university or athletic department is perfect, I understand this. Any time you use unpaid labor and have massive amounts of money involved, there’s going to be things going on behind the scenes that those in charge don’t want to brought out into the light.
And when things are, it’s a carefully orchestrated campaign with an agenda behind it or due to people asking the right questions. Right now, it doesn’t feel like anyone is asking the right questions.
Why has he never been put on leave for any of the egregious errors he’s made? Why hasn’t he faced pressure to improve how he runs the athletic department? Why does he get to skate around every difficult issue and not have to answer for anything he’s done? Why has he gotten so many free passes? What leads him to believe that he has Iowa athletics going in the right direction?
The people of Iowa and those that have vested interest in this university’s success have the right to the answers to those quandaries. More than that, we all deserve them.
The sad thing is we’ll likely never get those answers. And that’s because Gary Barta incapable of change. And nobody close to him is forcing the issue.