A ‘home run’ hire: Iowa Athletics Director Beth Goetz makes history

She is the first woman to oversee the university’s entire athletics department.
A double exposure image of a reporter live tweeting a quote from Athletic Director Beth Goetz during an introductory press conference at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024. Goetz is the first woman in the Big Ten conference to be hired into the roll of athletic director.
A double exposure image of a reporter live tweeting a quote from Athletic Director Beth Goetz during an introductory press conference at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024. Goetz is the first woman in the Big Ten conference to be hired into the roll of athletic director.
Shaely Odean

The University of Iowa continues to break barriers for women in sports.

As the first public university to admit men and women on an equal basis, the UI hired Beth Goetz as its permanent athletics director on Jan. 18. Goetz was promoted after serving as the interim athletics director since Aug. 1, 2023.

She is the first woman to oversee the university’s entire athletics department. Christine Grant, who played a pivotal role in the enactment of Title IX, served as the Iowa women’s athletics director from 1973-2000.

The university launched a national search for a new athletic director at the end of November 2023. The search committee cost $125,000, according to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, and was chaired by Nicole Grosland, associate dean for academic programs in the UI College of Engineering and professor of biomedical engineering. Grosland said in a release that the committee interviewed multiple sitting athletic directors from across the country.

Goetz is currently the only woman AD in the Big Ten, but that will change when the University of Southern California joins the conference this summer. According to her signed term sheet, Goetz’s base salary is $850,000 plus $200,000 per year in deferred compensation. Gary Barta, Goetz’s predecessor, was earning $650,000 in base salary and $400,000 annually in deferred compensation.

“What an honor for us to follow her but also for her to take over from Christine Grant, who set the pace for women in NCAA sports,” Iowa women’s gymnastics head coach Larissa Libby told The Daily Iowan. “Every coach has said it — we hit a home run with this one. She got the perfect 10 from us because I don’t know that we could have done better.”

Libby is not the only one raving about Goetz. After the university made the hiring announcement, several coaches, from rowing to football, posted statements on social media in support of Goetz.

On Jan. 19, Iowa women’s basketball star Caitlin Clark gifted Goetz flowers, and the new AD was introduced at Iowa men’s wrestling’s home dual meet against Purdue and received a standing ovation.

One Hawkeye fan posted on X, formerly Twitter, that hiring Goetz as the permanent AD was “The best decision the university has made in a long time.”

Libby described Goetz as the “powerful female that we need,” complimenting the athletics director’s willingness to make hard decisions but also showing compassion.

“She takes what you say to heart, and you feel like you matter,” Libby said of Goetz. Libby also questioned whether the AD ever sleeps, as she attends every Iowa sporting event possible.

“She showed up in the snowstorm that we had where we barely got Washington here and we could hardly get our own people to the meet,” Libby said.

Head volleyball coach Jim Barnes also mentioned last August his appreciation for Goetz’s visibility around campus. Goetz attended volleyball practices, which Barnes said she was “very involved in.”

“I think you want to demonstrate that you’re supportive of them in their process, and that means the process when they have a great day and when they have a challenging day,” Goetz said of supporting athletes.

Last August, Goetz said one of her top priorities is to make sure Iowa Athletics continues to be innovative and host events that create traction for the university.

During Goetz’s time as Iowa’s interim athletics director, she improved the athletic department’s relationship with The Swarm NIL collective and continued the construction of various facilities, including the Goschke Family Wrestling Training Center and a new $20 million Gymnastics and Spirit Squads Training Center.

The Hawkeye women’s basketball squad broke the all-time attendance record for a women’s basketball game with 55,646 fans. The UI completed a feasibility study on Carver-Hawkeye Arena to possibly move the student section closer to the floor to create a better fan environment. Iowa baseball proposed a $27.4 million makeover to Duane Banks Field to the Iowa Board of Regents. The upgrades include increasing stadium capacity, improving ADA access and seating, and enhancing the fan experience with premium seating opportunities, additional concessions, and restrooms.

Brad Heinrichs, founder of The Swarm, told the DI that Goetz “is completely on board with NIL” and has been “very receptive” to his ideas. The collective played a crucial role in recruiting football players Jay Higgins, Nick Jackson, Sebastian Castro, Quinn Schulte, Jermari Harris, and Luke Lachey to return to the Hawkeyes for a final season. Former five-star recruit and Alabama offensive tackle Kadyn Proctor also announced his commitment to the Hawkeyes on Jan. 20.

One of Goetz’s biggest moves yet was announcing the release of offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz. Iowa football had one of the worst offensive seasons of head coach Kirk Ferentz’s tenure in 2022. The Hawkeyes averaged 17.7 points per game — 123rd in the FBS — and ranked second-to-last in total offense with 251.6 yards per contest.

It got worse in 2023. The 10-4 Hawkeyes averaged 15.4 points and 235.4 yards per game, ranking second-to-last and last in the FBS, respectively.

The next offensive coordinator has not been announced, but Goetz said she “feels really good” about where the search stands. Linebackers coach Seth Wallace and defensive coordinator Phil Parker’s contracts were recently revised. Wallace was elevated to assistant head coach, the first one to be named during Kirk Ferentz’s time at the helm. According to the release, Wallace will continue his duties as linebackers coach and assistant defensive coordinator but receive a yearly salary of $1 million instead of $775,000. Parker’s base salary was upgraded to $1.9 million per year.

Wide receivers coach Kelton Copeland, on the other hand, parted ways with the program. His replacement has not been announced.

Goetz will likely have to make more personnel changes in the future.

Kirk Ferentz and Iowa basketball coaches Fran McCaffery and Lisa Bluder are 68, 64, and 62, respectively. Goetz, who is 49 years old, will likely hire their successors.

Goetz’s introductory press conference on Jan. 23 was packed with every local media outlet to Hawkeye athletes, coaches, Barta, and UI President Barbara Wilson.

During her opening remarks, Goetz pledged to lead the university with “integrity, transparency, and a relentless drive for success.”

She also showed appreciation for the student-athletes in attendance and assured them that the university would give them opportunities to succeed in school while also preparing them for life after graduation.

“We will listen to the voices of our athletes and recognize the value that you bring to our strong Iowa brand.”

Years of experience

Goetz first joined the Iowa athletics staff from Ball State University, where she served as athletic director from 2018-22. Ball State won 10 Mid-American Conference championships under Goetz and achieved the highest Academic Progress Rate in program history in 2020-21.

“I’m happy for Beth, and I think her new position at Iowa reflects her leadership, a great work ethic, and an ability to build and manage relationships,” Ball State head football coach Mike Neu, who began his role in January 2016, wrote in an email to the DI. “She is extremely intelligent and very committed to the student-athlete experience. I wish her the best.”

Before Ball State, Goetz served as the chief operating officer and senior woman administrator at UConn from 2016-18. She acted as Minnesota’s deputy athletic director from 2013-15 and interim athletic director during the 2015-16 season. Goetz served as associate athletic director at Butler from 2008-13.

She went on to earn her master’s degree from the University of Missouri-St. Louis in 2000. Goetz, an accomplished soccer player throughout college, was the Triton women’s soccer team’s head coach from 1997-08 and was assistant athletic director and senior woman administrator from 2001-08.

Goetz has also taken on several national leadership positions.

In 2018, she was named to the NCAA Competition Oversight Committee in 2018. She was recognized by the Indianapolis Business Journal as one of the 2021 Women of Influence and named by Women Leaders in College Sports as the 2022 NCAA Division I FBS Nike Executive of the Year.

Goetz also served as vice chair of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee in 2021 before stepping into the chair position in 2022-23.

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