Gary Barta announces retirement from UI Department of Athletics

Barta’s retirement will be effective Aug. 1, with his contract originally set to expire in June 2024.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Henry B. and Patricia B. Tippie Director of Athletics Chair Gary Barta watches the Iowa football team warmup before a football game between Iowa and South Dakota State at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022.

Kenna Roering, Sports Editor

Gary Barta, who has served as the University of Iowa’s athletic director since 2006, announced his retirement on Friday morning.

Barta’s 17-year tenure was the longest at Iowa since Christine Grant’s 27 years as Iowa’s women’s athletic director from 1973-2000.

Barta’s retirement will be effective Aug. 1. His contract was set to expire in June 2024.

“It has been an absolute privilege and honor to serve in this role the past 17 years,” Barta said in a statement. “I’m humbled to have worked beside, and on behalf of, so many student-athletes, coaches, staff, donors, fans, and community leaders over the past two decades. The success enjoyed by our student-athletes and coaches during my entire tenure, and especially the past several years, has been impressive and record-breaking on so many levels.”

Under the terms of Barta’s deal, he was being paid more than $1 million per year − $650,000 in base salary and $400,000 annually in deferred compensation.

Barta will be paid out for his remaining sick days and vacation, and he and his wife will receive health-care benefits from the university until Barta’s 65th birthday on Sep. 4, 2028, unless he takes another job before then.

Barta said his decision to retire didn’t come suddenly and was something that required lots of thought, prayer, and discussion with his family.

“As I’ve reflected, I came to the conclusion there’s never a good time to step away…because there’s always more to be done,” Barta said.  “That said, I’m confident this is the right time for me and for my family.”

Under Barta’s leadership, the Hawkeyes mustered four NCAA team titles, 27 Big Ten Conference team titles, nearly 500 All-America honorees, multiple National Player of the Year award winners, Big Ten Player of the Year recipients, and Coach of the Year recognitions. 

During Barta’s tenure, the athletics endowment grew from $31.6 million to $76 million, and there were more than $380 million in facility upgrades and new construction projects, including Kinnick Stadium’s North End Zone, Hansen Football Performance Center, and Goschke Family Wrestling Training Center.

Barta served on the NCAA Division I Council for four years, and was on the College Football Playoff Selection Committee from 2019-21, serving two of those years as chair. 

“Gary’s achievements at the University of Iowa are significant, and our coaches and student-athletes have enjoyed tremendous success on and off the field during his tenure,” UI President Barbara Wilson said in a statement. “I’m grateful for his leadership as a Hawkeye and I wish him well in his retirement.

But Barta also faced many controversies throughout his 17 years, including discrimination lawsuits that resulted in a $6.5 million settlement for former field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum and Associate Athletics Director Jane Meyer, and a $200,000 settlement for former assistant track coach Michael Scott.

More than 55 players came forward with racist allegations in the football program in June 2020. Eight Black players then filed a lawsuit over the allegations in November 2020, and the UI and the state Board of Regents agreed to a $4.2 million settlement. 

Iowa also had to pay $400,000, reinstate women’s swimming and diving, and add women’s wrestling as part of a Title IX settlement after Barta tried cutting four sports during COVID-19.

Most recently, 26 current athletes from football, baseball, men’s basketball, men’s wrestling, and men’s track and field, as well as one full-time staff member, were involved in a sports wagering investigation.

Several people, including Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand, voiced concerns about Barta and called for his departure.

“Gary Barta’s departure is a long time coming given the four different lawsuits for discrimination that cost Iowa more than $11 million,” Sand said in a statement. “Discrimination demands accountability. The University of Iowa should publicly release all terms of his departure.”

In an interview with The Daily Iowan on May 3, Wilson said she was proud of where the athletic program is at and isn’t planning on making any position changes.

“The saying in athletics is win, graduate, and do it right, and we’re focusing on the whole experience of students here,” Wilson told the DI. “Those are things that people on the outside who are critics often don’t look at, they’re looking at the win-loss ratio, or they’re looking at one particular case or issue and I see the whole picture … That’s how we make decisions about who’s at the helm of athletics. I’m really proud of what we’re accomplishing here. I’ve spent a lot of time in the world of presidents and chancellors of other institutions, and we’re doing it right.”

Iowa is expected to hire an interim athletics director next week. Possible candidates to replace Barta could include Beth Goetz, who was named deputy athletic director at Iowa in September 2022, and Gene Taylor, a former Iowa deputy athletic director, and current athletic director at Kansas State.