Win. Graduate. Do it right.
“We are committed to being among the nation’s best in all three areas. Our charge is a three-legged stool. Coming up short in one leg leads to a lack of balance which will cause the stool to tip over and create failure in the other two areas,” Gary Barta, the UI’s director of athletics, told hawkeyesports.com recently.
“These aren’t new or earth-shattering directives,” Barta continued. “They are, and always will be, at the very core of what we do and who we are. Nonetheless, where we have come up short in the past, we have to work to get better and, conversely, where we have excelled, we have to remain diligent and continue to excel.”
Competitively, Barta said he wants all 24 of Iowa’s teams to compete at a level that places them in the top half of the Big Ten Conference. Performances at that level will put the Hawkeyes in a position to compete for championships and teams that compete for championships in the Big Ten historically fare well in national competition.
“The Learfield Directors Cup has become a benchmark for the more than 300 NCAA Division I programs. It’s not a perfect system, and will never be our sole measure for success, but it is important. Historically, the Hawkeyes have finished in the top 50, but that has left us near the bottom of the Big Ten,” Barta noted.
What is it going to take to climb the ladder competitively?
“We look at the Hawkeye teams that aren’t consistently competing in the top half of the conference and ask why. We talk about what’s holding us back. Is it our facilities? Is it our recruiting budget? We identify the hurdles, put a plan in place to address those, and then implement the plan.”
Barta notes that competitive teams will help the Hawkeyes maintain their standing as one of the nation’s leaders in attendance in football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, and wrestling. Winning also helps to keep television ratings and radio listenership high, helps to motivate friends and fans to remain or become engaged in the National I-Club and other fund-raising initiatives, and keeps the cash register ringing at Herky’s Locker Room, the official team store of the Iowa Hawkeyes.
The Hawkeyes have a long history of success in the leg of the strategic plan labeled “Graduate” including setting a new record for graduation rate (77 percent) last year. The UI also can boast of all 24 of its programs being above the minimum score of 930 on the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate, an annual “academic stress test.”
“We will want to continue to achieve at a high level in this category. We’ll want to continue to graduate our student-athletes at a rate that exceeds that of the UI’s general student population. We will want to rank high in graduation rates among teams participating in bowl games. We will accomplish this by recruiting student-athletes who want to be champions on the court or field and in the classroom, young men and women who want to earn a degree from one of the nation’s best universities,” said Barta.
“We will also need to remain committed to providing superior academic resources for our student-athletes. We are a national leader in this area and we need to make certain we do what is necessary to remain in that position. It is a critical piece of our commitment to our student-athletes.”
Do it right.
The UI also has a long history of playing by the rules. Barta said it is a given that there will never be wiggle room on that leg of the stool.
“We have to do it the right way. That is an expectation,” he said.
Barta points to his decision to create two new senior staff positions responsible for compliance and student services as evidence of the UI’s commitment to remain a leader in these areas.
“These are incredibly important and complex areas of our department. Our new staff members have outstanding histories of success and leadership. With respect to compliance specifically, our culture is strong and solid, and we are widely heralded as a national leader, but we would be making a mistake if we think we can rest on our past successes. We can’t,” he said.
Barta believes the Hawkeyes carry significant momentum into this next five-year plan. However, he notes there’s plenty of work to be done.
“We need to provide our student-athletes and our coaches the tools they need to be successful. A big piece of that are facilities. We will need to continue to build or renovate to remain competitive in that area,” he said.
“We also need to maintain financial stability and remain financially self-sustaining. We will accomplish that with smart fiscal planning and prudent use of our financial resources. Finally, we need retain and hire coaches and staff who share our values and recruit student-athletes who share our values.”
Speaking of student-athletes, Barta said he is not a proponent of “pay for play,” a topic that will undoubtedly command a lot of his attention in the coming years. He is, however, committed to helping to re-work the definition and contents of a scholarship, and, most importantly, improving the student-athlete experience.
“We should never stop examining and working to improve the student-athlete experience,” he said.