Barta: 'We Had To Cut Sports'

John Bohnenkamp

There was "no good answer," Gary Barta said, to the question of how the four programs cut from Iowa’s athletic department were chosen.

Barta, Iowa’s athletics director, announced on Friday that men’s gymnastics, men’s tennis, and men’s and women’s swimming and diving, were cut because of the economic problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The decisions, he said, were based on how the department could move forward after a $100 million loss in revenue caused by the pandemic.

“You can start to go down all these different roads. In the end, whatever I came up with, whatever we came up with, you could make the case that we shouldn’t have cut this one, or we should have cut that one instead,” Barta said during a Monday video conference. “We ended up cutting the sports we felt were going to best position us to come out of this pandemic once it’s all over.”

The August 11 decision by the Big Ten to not have a fall football season because of medical concerns related to the COVID-19 virus set in motion the decisions made at Iowa, including the need to borrow approximately $75 million to offset the financial losses.

“It was 100 percent determined and driven by (the financial fallout of) COVID-19,” Barta said. “Were it not for that, we wouldn’t have been dropping those four sports. August 11 was a memorable day. From that point forward, we started to put a plan in action.

“We had to cut sports, and we had to get to the decision of which ones, which has been a challenge.”

Barta said there are no plans to cut additional sports.

“We think this is the last we’ll have to do that,” he said.

Athletes within the four programs will have their scholarships honored should they wish to stay at the university, and coaches’ contracts will be honored as well.

Barta met with the athletes and coaches on Friday morning, saying of the day it was, “maybe, if not the most difficult day, one of the most difficult days of my career.”

Asked if there would be a possibility of restoring the sports in the future, Barta said, “That’s a question we thought about. I don’t want to create any false hope. The decision to cut these sports is final. And what I mean by that is, the hole that’s been dug by our current financial situation is very, very deep. We do have a plan forward, but we’re not going to flip a switch overnight. Paying back $75 million, we have a plan for. But it’s going to take quite a while.

“If I look nationally, and historically, when sports have been dropped, there’s a few exceptions where those sports have been brought back. But in most cases, once a sport is dropped, it’s not likely it’s going to come back.”

Iowa’s athletic department has been self-sustaining since 2007.

“We had a very foundationally strong financial model,” Barta said. “We had been funding great facilities. We were competitive in salary, and competitive in terms of operation budgets.

“Now, for the first time, across the country, not just at Iowa, that funding model is in serious jeopardy.”