UI Athletics Director Gary Barta talks effects of pay-to-play, sports-betting laws

UI Athletic Director Gary Barta discussed national changes to sports including student athletes being paid to play and sports betting.


Emily Wangen

University of Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta dresses Faculty Senate members during a Faculty Senate meeting on Oct. 29, 2019.

Eleanor Hildebrandt, News Reporter

University of Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta took opposition to the NCAA Board of Directors’ move Tuesday to allow collegiate athletes to own the individual right to their name, image, and likeness in conversation with the Faculty Senate.

In response to conversations about paying collegiate athletes that are gaining traction after California lawmakers passed legislation to permit such payments, Barta on Tuesday said the policy creates unwanted consequences in collegiate sports — especially when it comes to the equal opportunity specified in Title IX and antitrust issues.

The NCAA Board of Governors earlier Tuesday voted unanimously to direct each of the NCAA’s three divisions to immediately consider updating relevant bylaws and policies to allow student athletes to benefit from their name, image, and likeness.

“The concept of student athletes becoming employees of the university is something I’m not supportive of at all,” Barta said.

Some in attendance at the Faculty Senate meeting expressed concern about UI Athletics potentially losing its competitiveness in recruitment practices as laws in other states change to offer student athletes more money and benefits. Barta stood in firm opposition to this type of legislation.

“It’s my belief that there will become a national solution to this question,” he said. “Nobody wants to be at a competitive disadvantage. Whenever there are that many state laws, it will be very difficult to remain competitive, so I believe there will be a national solution rather than a localized one.”

Another audience member asked Barta about what the university does to stop sports gambling and betting on collegiate sports in light of the practice’s recent legalization in Iowa.

Barta said such concerns are mainly founded outside of UI Athletics and student athletes, because resources have already been used to educate student athletes on how to combat sports betting.

RELATED: Iowa educates student-athletes on repercussions of sports betting

“We have continued to increase our education on [sports betting],” he said. “We have 650 student athletes and we certainly educate them. Our vulnerability and risk probably exist greater outside of that. It is something we are concerned about and we have spent a lot of time and energy to improve [sports-betting] education.”

Barta mentioned that Big Ten peer universities are just as concerned about sports gambling as the UI. He said the Big Ten hired an integrity-service company to monitor every game and ensure that the legitimacy of collegiate sports stays intact through every aspect of sports.

The UI will not partake in policy changes that other Big Ten universities have proposed to minimize conflicts of interest though, Barta said, and he will not ban students and faculty members from participating in sports betting.

Despite the national reverberations that changing legislation and legalizing sports betting has brought, Barta said, the UI will continue its tradition of remaining a strong and competitive option for student athletes around the country.

The value of attending the UI in terms of what it provides student athletes is upwards of $150,000, Barta said.

“We have to prove that [an athlete] would have incredible academic support and incredible medical support in addition to great coaches and facilities,” Barta said. “[They] would have to decide what’s a better option for [them]. We know we offer a very great option for student athletes and our plan is to continue that.”