IOWA CITY — Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta unveiled a new vision for his athletics department Thursday, calling it a “living, breathing, document” for the next five years.
His strategic plan provides a three-legged baseline for the department’s goals over the next three years. They start with winning more consistently in concert with graduating athletes and “doing it the right way.”
“We must keep all three of those legs with equal balance and equal attention,” Barta told members of Iowa’s Presidential Committee on Athletics. “As faculty members, I know that we sit around this table and we think our No. 1 charges are academic — graduate and do it right, that’s student-athlete-welfare — that’s great and that’s true. But I also need you to care deeply about winning. Because if you don’t care about all three, we’re not going to be successful.
“I would say the same to our student-athletes and our coaches.”
Barta concedes many of the athletic goals are aspirational. That includes pushing all of the department’s 24 sports into the Big Ten’s upper half and consistently compete for championships. He also wants the department to finish in the top 35 of the Learfield Directors Cup, an annual national competition in which schools accumulate points based on athletic success. Last year Iowa finished 65th to rank last among the Big Ten’s 12 schools. Purdue placed 11th among Big Ten schools at No. 42.
“We want our athletes competing for a Big Ten championship on a regular basis and to get our Directors Cup, which is not the do-all and end-all, but it’s one measurement to get into the top 35 or greater, which would put us in upper half of the Big Ten,” Barta said. “We’ve been around 50 on a regular basis. We aspire to reach higher than that.”
Iowa graduated a record 77 percent of its athletes last year, and Barta set the goal at 80 percent. He also wants to place $20 million in a debt reserve fund. Iowa currently has $10.2 million saved.
The department will create a master facilities plan with potential to reconfigure or build new facilities for several Olympic sports. That includes re-purposing the current football complex and adjacent Jacobson Building. That could involve facility changes for volleyball, gymnastics and multiple spring sports.
“Can we build a stand-alone arena or does volleyball and gymnastics someday share an arena?” Barta said. “It’s not yet done, but it’s part of a master facilities plan. The other thing is looking at bringing some facilities out to the west campus area, whether it’s baseball or softball or track.
“Every one of those pieces are in varying degrees of stages. We’re probably further along in our thoughts about baseball than we are in our thoughts about volleyball.”
Iowa will install turf to the baseball infield at Duane Banks Field. That’s a temporary step. Barta and new coach Rick Heller could decide to move baseball to the western part of Iowa’s campus.
“Is it better to enhance what we have right where it’s at or do we look at building a new stadium at the west campus?” Barta asked. “We haven’t answered that question yet.”
Iowa also will consider renovating or replacing the clubhouse at Finkbine Golf Course.
“The goal at the end of this five-year period is to have it all mapped out,” Barta said. “We might not have it all built or paid for, but we’ll have it all mapped out.”
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