In June of 2020, with the coronavirus pandemic threatening college revenues, University of Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta announced that he and several high-profile coaches including head football coach Kirk Ferentz would be taking voluntary pay reductions.
11 months later, reporting from The Gazette shows that Ferentz did not take a pay cut, nor did any of his football staff.
The story is significant to swimming fans because in between those two pieces of news was a third Iowa update: in August of 2020, Iowa announced it would be cutting its women’s and men’s swimming & diving programs along with two other sports.
The June 2020 announcement came as the worsening coronavirus pandemic left the college football season in jeopardy. Iowa was already staring down an athletics budget deficit. Barta announced that he would be taking a voluntary salary reduction of more than 30%. He also announced that four highly-paid head coaches (football’s Kirk Ferentz, men’s basketball’s Fran McCaffery, women’s basketball’s Lisa Bluder, and wrestling’s Tom Brands) had agreed to one-year salary reductions of 15%, or to “contributions back to the athletic department.”
But The Gazette reports That while McCaffery, Bluder, Brands and Barta did see their base salaries decrease, Ferentz did not. In fact, Ferentz’s base salary actually increased $100,000 as spelled out in his contract, from $2.6 million to $2.7 million. Ferentz is the highest-paid public employee in the state of Iowa.
Ten football coaches agreed to forgo bonuses they earned for qualifying for a bowl game. (Altogether, that saved the Iowa athletic department a little more than $400,000, per The Gazette. The coaches of other sports who reduced their salaries saved the school a collective $1.6 million.) But all ten of those football coaches saw their base salaries rise significantly. Strength coach Raimond Brathwaite‘s salary doubled, from $205,000 to $450,000. Ferentz’s son Brian, the team’s offensive coordinator, saw his salary rise from $775,000 to $860,000.
Despite the other coaches forgoing those bowl game bonuses, Ferentz did not. He will be paid another $100,000 for qualifying for a bowl game that the Hawkeyes never actually played – the game was canceled when Iowa’s opponent, the University of Missouri, reported too many cases of COVID-19.
Per The Gazette, most members of Iowa’s athletic department did take the pay cuts. That includes the athletic director, Gary Barta. Even the coaches of the four Olympic sports the school cut – swimming & diving, men’s tennis, men’s gymnastics – volunteered to take the pay cut. The school later waived those offers after they announced the program cuts.
Iowa has since reinstated its women’s swimming & diving program after a lawsuit alleged that the school would be in violation of Title IX by cutting the team. But head coach Marc Long stepped down after 17 seasons.
The original announcement said Ferentz and the other coaches would take the pay cut or make “contributions back to the athletic department.” The Gazette asked the school if Ferentz had made contributions, and the school pointed to Ferentz’s previous donations to “support football letterwinner initiatives” in late 2019 and late 2020.
When asked if others on the football staff had made contributions, the school named only assistant coach Ken O’Keefe, who made a $20,000 donation in late 2020. (O’Keefe more than made up for it, though, with a base salary rise of $60,000, from $625,000 to $685,000.) Other Iowa media outlets have already reported on Iowa’s football staff receiving raises the month after the school cut its swimming & diving programs.