Barta sounds off on issues in Iowa sports, college football

Iowa athletic director Gary Barta was on the scene at Big Ten Media Days this week, answering questions concerning alcohol sales, the transfer portal, and conference scheduling.


Katina Zentz

Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta speaks during the second day of Big Ten Football Media Days in Chicago, Ill., on Friday, July 19, 2019.

Pete Mills, Assistant Sports Editor

CHICAGO – With the biggest voices in the conference converging in Chicago at Big Ten media days this week, the main issues plaguing the conference came to the forefront.

As one of the longest-tenured athletics directors in the conference, Iowa’s Gary Barta sounded off on some of the biggest debates in both football and college sports. He spoke on everything from the transfer portal to alcoholic-beverage sales in college stadiums. His positions on some of these topics would directly affect the experience of fans in Kinnick Stadium and beyond, so The Daily Iowan was there on the case.

Barta stays firm on the Big Ten West, seeks conference game expansion

Talk of conference realignment has filled the Big Ten discussion for a few seasons. Teams in the East Division have, really, been the only Big Ten programs that have significantly impacted the national stage. Barta thinks the current makeup is best for Iowa and Hawkeye fans.

“I really like the fact that we play Nebraska, and Wisconsin, and Minnesota,” Barta said. “I like the proximity for our fans. I know that the East has some names that have some great recognition, but I would argue that the West certainly can pull its own and has.”

The point he makes is an important one. East Division teams meander into Kinnick every few years and create a fun, new atmosphere for Iowa fans. But the team’s lifeblood is with its regional rivals. These are games which are frequented by Iowa fans, Barta said, because of the regional proximity to those rivals.

But there could be an easy fix to evening out the mismatches that might exist, and that could be expanding the conference game slate, which Barta has vocally supported.

“I’m very supportive of nine [Big Ten] games,” Barta said. “In fact, I’d probably vote for 10 because I think it’s best for our fans. It’s best for college football, but there is a need to have some consistency across the board [nationally].”

Many Power 5 conferences still sit at an eight-game conference slate, which would put the Big Ten at an even bigger disadvantage. Barta was outspoken about his desire to create unified conference-schedule rules across football.

Barta calls for rule changes on transferring

Much of the drama surrounding college sports this year has had to do with the transfer portal.

As a result of the increased ease by which players can transfer, football coaches and administrators are becoming frustrated with the transfer rules. Players are often told they must sit out a year, only to appeal and receive permission. Waiver approvals have hovered around 60 to 80 percent in the last several years across college sports, according to the NCAA. That, Barta believes, signals there are either unclear or unfair rules.

While he thinks there need to be fixes in place to help student-athletes, he held strong in his mindset that transfer rules must be in place to benefit players, not create unnecessary roadblocks.

“You benefit socially and academically [if they sit out a year], just from the standpoint of [having] another year of maturity as a young person,” Barta said.

Kinnick renovations will be complete this fall, but no alcohol in sight

The $89 million renovation project will be fully open to fans by the first game this fall, vastly changing the Kinnick experience. New seating, video board, and restrooms will be open this fall with the aim of bettering the fan experience.

What won’t change, though, is allowing alcohol in Kinnick.

In 2018, the NCAA decided to allow beer sales at championship games. While Kinnick will not follow suit this season, Barta said, it is not out of the question in the future.

“I was steadfast last year in saying we wouldn’t be the first [to allow it], but that we wouldn’t be the last,” he said. “The goal won’t be financial; it’ll be fan experience.”