It was an interesting week in Iowa City.
The President of the United States came to town to talk about the staggering amount of debt most graduates leave with.
Meanwhile, one day later, Iowa got the green light to begin construction on the second phase of its $57 million football practice facility.
No one wants to hear about the arms race in college football, particularly college graduates who might have to move back in with Mom and Dad.
Although it may seem gross and unfair that football gets to thrive and expand while the price of education goes up and up and up … the two are almost completely unrelated.
And the arms race is real.
Iowa was the only team in the Big Ten using a “bubble” indoor facility. Everyone else had moved into a more permanent, less inflatable indoor facility years ago.
“We knew when walking into the facilities of our peers that we’d fallen behind,” Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said. “We have to make sure we’re offering the same things.”
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz didn’t take recruits to tour the bubble when they came to campus.
“It wasn’t a showcase for sure,” Ferentz said.
There are a lot of reasons why high school football players pick a college. Iowa may not need to have the very best facilities … but it sure can’t afford to have the worst.
“The bottom line is that we face some inherent disadvantages in recruiting, be it location and population,” Ferentz said. “One thing I learned here in the ’80s is if we are not out in front of things, it will be tough.”
Ferentz said that back in the 1980s under Hayden Fry, Iowa used football calendars and posters to help the program get exposure.
But you can’t do that any more. The biggest way to gain an edge, aside from winning, is facilities.
“This is part of an upgrade process that began in the early 2000s with Kinnick Stadium,” Barta said. “This is the last large piece.”
Iowa football gets new strength and conditioning space, new meeting rooms, new offices and a public area to display “the history and tradition of Iowa football.”
Much of what Iowa currently has in that regard is functional but not fantastic.
“I really do think, like all of the facilities going on campus, be they academic or athletic, for the long-term success of our programs, the facilities need to be addressed,” Ferentz said. “What we have had have been adequate, and we have won games.
“But the pace of recruiting, like it or not, these are important to recruits. If you can’t recruit, you won’t survive.”
Is it just a coincidence that with the new indoor practice facility nearing completion, Iowa already has gotten seven verbal commitments for the 2013 class?
“We have been showing plans now for a while,” Ferentz said. “Jeff Tarpinian was teasing Brian (Ferentz) last fall. He said they were showing me plans when I was coming out.”
The upgrades are being paid by donations and athletic department funds. No public money will be used.
The arms race in college football may be just as broken as the academic side that leaves students with massive debt, but the two are not related.
College football is making money. It supports the other sports. Gamedays make the local economy go boom.
And Iowa’s self-sustaining athletic department sends a check for about $10 million to the Registrar’s Office every year paying the scholarship bill for hundreds of students to attend Iowa.
Iowa soon will have its solution to the college football arms race. The student debt crisis? College football will get back to you. It is busy trying to find a way to expand the postseason and pay players.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football