Thursday, November 14, 2019
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Home Opinion Columns Gary Barta should be fired

Gary Barta should be fired

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Gary Barta (photo from HawkeyeSports.com)

As I’m sure you have heard by now, there may have been misbehavior among Iowa State fans toward the Iowa Hawkeye Band Saturday in Ames. Or, in the words of Ilhan Omar, “some people did something.” That’s about as specific as a press release from Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta was, which ignited the uproar.

Barta’s release states, “University of Iowa Athletics has been made aware of inappropriate actions made toward student members and staff of the Hawkeye Marching Band while attending the Iowa State football game Sept. 14. We have contacted Iowa State Athletics administration and are working to gather additional information.

“Our main priority is the safety of all Iowa students, staff, and coaches when attending events away from Iowa City.”

There is no specific allegation, as you can see, which makes it difficult for Iowa State officials to further investigate. The Ames Tribune reported Tuesday afternoon that Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard has no further details on the incident. Their report indicates that Pollard said, “It’s tough to comment on this situation because all we know is Iowa issued a press release. I couldn’t tell you what happened, when it happened or where it happened. No one has been able to ascertain that information and provide it to us.”

Pollard went on to say that the band was traveling with at least four law enforcement officers, there are cameras surrounding Jack Trice Stadium and Iowa State’s band director was nearby as well. Nobody reported anything inappropriate. But it’s perhaps Pollard’s last comment in the article that is most damning.

“Here’s what I do know happened last week. This state had a national audience with GameDay. It was an awesome, celebratory day for both Iowa and Iowa State. It brought great exposure to the CyHawk series and Iowa Corn and everything great about this state. It pains me to think that a pretty vague release has kind of damaged that nationally. That’s unfortunate.” 

Anyone paying attention to the news or Iowa athletics since Barta was hired in 2006 knows that he has made multiple public relations blunders over the years and never provides specifics about any incidents. GoIowaAwesome.com recently re-posted a great article, outlining Barta’s costly mistakes during his tenure.

For those who may not remember, or choose not to read the post, in the past 13 years, Barta has cost Iowans millions of dollars in a wrongful termination settlement, tried to hide sexual assault allegations against two Hawkeye football players, extended controversial Coach Fran MacCaffrey’s contract in secret, maneuvered around the school’s rule against nepotism in coach hiring practices and picked a fight with beloved radio sports personality Gary Dolphin.

Why does this man still have a taxpayer-supported job?

Legislators often claim they are in favor of openness and transparency, yet they continue to allow one of the highest paid, highest profile employees in the state to be continually vague. I appreciate Barta’s efforts with the press release to at least make people aware of a possible situation, but there is no reason to release anything with absolutely no details of what allegedly happened.

Spell out what happened. When you leave things out, the door is left wide open for rumor, innuendo, animosity, etc. For instance, my immediate question is what did the Cyclone fans do? He has to know if a complaint was made. Just answering that simple question does not require him to release the names of anyone involved.

Where did it happen? How many people were involved? What evidence has the accuser(s) presented? Also, not difficult questions to answer.

Pollard put it best when he said the Cy-Hawk game and our state have been nationally damaged by the vague press release. One could forgive Barta for making such a gaffe, but this is far from the first time this man has made our state look bad. I struggle to think of a time he made our state look good. The fact that he’s been around for 13 years makes that statement all the more sad.
For all the hype surrounding the Hawkeye football team, how many prestigious bowl wins have they had? Sure, they make one every year because there’s money to be made from Hawk fans. But the last meaningful bowl game I can remember was a disastrous Rose Bowl in 2015. In fact, that was among five consecutive bowl game losses for the Hawkeyes. Overall, they are 16-15-1 in bowl games.
I’m more of an Iowa State Cyclone fan, but I don’t hate the Hawkeyes. I do care how Iowa is presented on the national stage, and even the Washington Post has reported on Barta’s non-release – adding to the theory that we have a bunch of thugs at America’s best agricultural college.
Barta’s made millions off Iowa taxpayers. Let’s put him out to pasture and find someone else willing to make a base salary of $550,000 who can do more to promote Iowa.
Take care of yourself and thank you for reading.

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