By Ryan Suchomel
Iowa City Press-Citizen
“If we are going to offer the sport, our goal is to compete for championships.”
That quote is from Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta.
Barta has been the Hawkeye athletics director for six years, the same amount of time as the Press-Citizen has been assigning grades to all 22 athletic teams at the University of Iowa. (It is 24 if you separate indoor and outdoor track.)
The past five years we gave grades based on a three-year window, but this year we are grading just this season.
We primarily started doing it because it seemed like Iowa was letting its Olympic sports wither on the vine.
Now, most people don’t care about non-revenue sports. That’s OK. We get it.
“Football and men’s basketball have to do well for us to be self-sustaining, which we have been,” Barta said.
The problem is over the past decade, Iowa has finished last in the Big Ten in the Directors’ Cup standings seven times, including this past year.
Is the Directors’ Cup a perfect measure of broad-based success? Of course not.
The rankings favor teams with more varsity sports. And if you can offer fencing, rifle, skiing, water polo or lacrosse, you can add points easier.
But Iowa enjoys getting points from low participation sports — men’s and women’s gymnastics.
So the frustrating part is how Iowa keeps coming in dead last in the Big Ten. Iowa offers 24 varsity sports. That’s the same as Indiana and more than Minnesota (23), Wisconsin (23), Illinois (21), Nebraska (21), Northwestern (19) and Purdue (18).
And Iowa finishes be
“The goal is to win championships,” Barta said. “So we have some programs that are doing that. Some that are not yet.
“If we are not making progress, figure out why and what can we do to make it better.”
Iowa has had success stories under Barta:
1. Iowa men’s golf became a national power under coach Mark Hankins.
3. Mark Long seems to be gaining ground, particularly on the men’s side, with swimming. Moving out of the antique Field House pool has been a plus.
4. Men’s track won a Big Ten title last season.
“We feel we have great people in place,” Barta said. “I feel we are getting much, much better over five years in facilities. I sense progress.”
Iowa has upgraded facilities for all of its Olympic sports with the exception of gymnastics.
And Barta proudly points to an all-time high 74 percent graduation rate.
“Our mission is to graduate, win and do it the right way,” he said. “While you’re looking backward, we’re already looking well ahead.”
Hopefully looking ahead to adding a women’s ice hockey team. Got to get out of the basement somehow.