Iowa is considering whether to move the future son-in-law of coach Kirk Ferentz out of the football program amid concerns about nepotism.
University spokesman Mark Braun said Thursday that a report by The Cedar Rapids Gazette raised questions about whether Tyler Barnes’ employment as an administrative assistant under Ferentz complied with a school policy on nepotism. He said athletic director Gary Barta was reviewing Barnes’ position and would recommend appropriate action as early as next week.
The department could choose to move Barnes, 27, outside the program or take other steps to manage the potential conflict of interest, he said.
“We have a conflict of interest policy at the university that we’re required to follow,” Braun said. “There’s obviously a relationship there. The questions are how to proceed and how to handle it.”
The nepotism questions are the latest to dog Ferentz, whose program hired his son, Brian Ferentz, over 100 other applicants to become the Hawkeyes’ offensive line coach last year. Ferentz, who is entering his 15th season at Iowa, had two other sons on last year’s team.
The Gazette reported that Ferentz’s program hired Barnes in January 2012 to a one-year temporary position to replace LeVar Woods, who had been promoted to an assistant coach on Ferentz’s staff. Barnes was offered the position on an emergency basis, which means a search was not conducted so the vacancy could be filled immediately.
An Iowa graduate, Barnes had worked for the athletics department for several years while he was in graduate school. At the time of his hiring, he was dating Ferentz’s daughter, 25-year-old Joanne Ferentz, an Iowa City elementary school teacher. About six months into the job, the two became engaged and are expected to marry July 6.
Last fall, Ferentz pushed to extend Barnes’ appointment without disclosing their relationship to Barta or other university officials. Ferentz said that he saw no reason to inform Barta about Barnes’ engagement to his daughter. He defended Barnes’ qualifications for the entry-level job, which he said required long hours for relatively little pay and was “a testing ground for us to see what kind of potential they have.”
“Tyler’s expertise is in operations, recruiting and technology,” Ferentz said. “His strengths complement what we have.”
In November, the athletics department asked the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity for a waiver to extend Barnes’ temporary employment for an additional year, through Jan. 16, 2014. A department memo, written by associate athletics director for human resources and compliance Mary Curtis, said Ferentz and Barta had decided not to conduct a search for the job for the time being.
“Meanwhile there is a lot of work to be done and Kirk would like the option to retain Tyler for this position … in order to give Tyler the additional professional experience needed to compete for a full-time administrative in job the intercollegiate athletics industry,” Curtis wrote. “At some point in time during Tyler’s second year, it is expected that a decision will be made to either rotate a new employee into the position or conduct a search.”
The office approved the waiver for Barnes, who was originally hired at a salary of $32,000 without benefits. Barnes started receiving health and dental insurance last June, and his pay went up 19 percent for his second year to $38,000.
Curtis told the newspaper that she did not know Barnes was engaged to Ferentz’s daughter when she sought the waiver. Human resources employees who become aware of a possible conflict of interest with a job candidate are obligated to inform Sue Buckley, the university’s vice president for human resources.
Buckley didn’t know about the relationship until The Gazette called her last week. “If he’s reporting within football operations and the reporting line goes to the head coach and he’s becoming the son-in-law of the head coach, that becomes a conflict,” she said, adding that she wanted a review performed.
A university policy meant to ban nepotism says familial relationships “should be avoided where possible, and otherwise disclosed and managed” to avoid even the appearance of favoritism. University officials typically approve a conflict-of-interest management plan in such cases, but that did not happen for Barnes.
When Iowa hired Brian Ferentz to his $202,000 per-year assistant job last year, Barta said it was his decision and Kirk Ferentz did not participate in the interview process. Brian Ferentz later said at a news conference that his father had offered him the job. To manage the conflict of interest, Barta says he is acting as Brian Ferentz’s supervisor, setting his pay and evaluating his performance.
Ferentz said that Barnes’s supervisor is Scott Southmayd, the quality control director.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football