It's Barta Time
Iowa athletic director Gary Barta met with the press Tuesday. The biggest news: Long-overdue upgrades are coming to Carver Hawkeye Arena.
Plans are in motion for a pair of renovations to the arena, with the first phase slated for this summer. Among the upgrades include a new sound system, a video board over center court, new lights and a new playing court. A second phase â with an undetermined cost and completion date â includes several exterior upgrades.
"Phase one is really mostly about enhancing the fan experience," Barta said. "(Last week's game against Indiana) was one of the most electric, loud nights at Carver-Hawkeye Arena that I've remembered in a long, long time. It's great to see that energy back in the building. I was envisioning it with the new video system, the new sound system, new lights, just that kind of excitement and environment. Obviously playing well is important to that, but there are a lot of things we'll be able to do with the new enhancements."
No, these do not fix all of the issues that plague the gameday experience at CHA -- to do that, we would need to physically move seats closer to the floor and get the students within shouting distance of the action on the court -- but it's a good start. Things like audio and Jumbotrons are ancillary to the game, but Iowa's existing audio and visual systems are atrocious.
Barta also balked at an extension of Kirk Ferentz's contract, which is set to run out in four seasons.
"What we're focusing on is what do we need to do as a program to continue to be at the top, near the top and be able to compete for championships?," Barta said. "It's been focused on a lot of things (those talks). It hasn't been focused on his contract specifically. We're focusing on facilities, we're focusing on staff, we're focusing on assistant coaches, we're focusing on what the student athletes need. That's really been all we've talked about."
There are two things in play here. First, the general concern about a head football coach with a contract term under four years -- that recruiting will be harmed by the uncertainty of the long-term situation -- is no concern at Iowa. Opponents can negatively recruit the Hawkeyes on a number of fronts; at a program with two head coaches in the last 38 years, coaching stability is not one of them. Second, Barta has clearly learned from the 2010 contract, negotiated immediately following the last Ferentz miracle season. That was the worst contract in college football, Rose Bowl season or no.
Iowa could go down the road that Nebraska typically did with Bo Pelini: Rolling one-year extensions to keep the contract at four years going forward. If those are accompanied with increased money for assistant coaches -- and a reduction in the still-obscene buyout -- it would make the most sense for all parties. Kirk Ferentz can't possibly care about the money at this point, and seems to be refocused on winning. Funneling money into the program is the best way to do that.
Of course, there's one other Barta thing. But the Griesbaum lawsuit and Title IX investigation deserves its own post.
Yes, Iowa commit Cordell Pemsl is two games away from a third consecutive state championship. Pemsl has posted a double-double this season for Wahlert, with 22 points and 10 rebounds per game; as the DMR notes, it's the fourth consecutive season he has led his high school program in both categories. Wahlert won their first game Tuesday and will face top-ranked Chariton on Thursday. The scariest part: After two knee injuries in the last two years, Pemsl is finally healthy again.
Yes, the McCaffery boys face Des Moines Hoover tonight in the first round of the Class 4A tournament. Connor McCaffery leads the Trojans in scoring, and his brother might end up being the better player. Their dad might be busy with the Big Ten Tournament for the next two rounds, but Fran's ability to make it to high school basketball games is bordering on legendary.
But the biggest play of the state tournament might have come from another Iowa commit: Under-the-radar forward Ryan Kreiner threw down -- and then stared down -- in a game against Cedar Rapids Xavier.
So @ChrisPalmquist6 will have this beauty tonight at 10 pic.twitter.com/LpW4CID87c— Jonathan Schaeffer (@J_SchaefferWOI) March 9, 2016
Just a Second While I Change the Laundry!
Speaking of recruiting, the commitment of Kansas City defensive back Djimon Colbert this weekend pushed Iowa to the No. 11 class in the nation, according to 247 Sports. The reviews from Junior Day -- even from those that Iowa has no chance of landing -- were fantastic. Iowa's staff have gotten the same reviews for years; it's just that they're now coming from four-star recruits now.
Among those now holding an Iowa offer: West Des Moines Valley quarterback Rocky Lombardi, recipient of all-state accolades, medalist in the state wrestling tournament, and possessor of the greatest name in the history of football. Lombardi already has offers from Iowa State, Virginia and a handful of mid-majors and attends a school that has been notoriously difficult terrain for Iowa's staff, but he's also held out while Iowa made up its mind. Zach Dykstra, a defensive lineman out of Spirit Lake, also got an offer this weekend.
Elsewhere, four-star halfback Eno Benjamin, who had previously put Iowa at the top of his list of potential schools, visited Michigan. In what could only be an elaborate prank, he made the same disinterested face for every picture taken in Ann Arbor.
ESPNJr300 RB Eno Benjamin at Michigan today pic.twitter.com/W0tpzi0PPK— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) March 9, 2016
He looks like his mom has forced him to go to church. Speaking of which, anyone remember Karan Higdon?
Backup defensive lineman Brant Gressel picked up a public intoxication citation over the weekend. He hasn't played in three seasons and wasn't in the January two-deep, so who knows what the punishment might be.
First he wins an Oscar for fighting a bear. Now he's winning life for supporting a Baer.
LEO IS WEARING AN IOWA HAT #GOHAWKS pic.twitter.com/o7DSYVunuL— Emily Ash (@emashhh) March 8, 2016
For the last five months, ESPN has promoted LSU freshman Ben Simmons as the best player in college basketball and a legitimate contender for the Wooden Award. And then Simmons didn't post the 2.0 GPA needed to qualify for the Wooden Award. Whoops!
Iona beat Monmouth in the MAAC Championship Game, putting the Gaels in the NCAA Tournament and guaranteeing that you mistakenly think Iowa has been given a 14 seed for two seconds this Sunday.