The firm hired by the Board of Regents to review operations at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa to find new “efficiencies” has been directed to examine the university athletic departments, too. I-S-U athletic director Jamie Pollard says he welcomes the process, but he makes it clear cutting the athletic department’s budget won’t save taxpayer dollars.
“We’re self-sufficient, so every dollar that we spend we have to cover through ticket sales, donations, television revenue and anything we can do to save money I’m all ears because in some ways it would make my job easier,” Pollard says. Gary Barta, the athletic director at the University of Iowa, says his department is “100 percent self-sustaining,” as well. “So there’s no tax dollars, no university funds, no student fees,” Barta says. “It’s all generated through the revenue that we are able to bring in and create.”
Iowa’s athletic department paid the university over 10-million dollars ($10 million) this year to cover tuition costs for all Hawkeye student athletes in 24 varsity sports. Iowa State has 18 varsity sports. “I think we run, at least within the athletics department, a very streamlined organization and work extremely hard to try to be as efficient as possible,” Pollard says. Barta says he can’t foresee the future, but the last thing he wants to do is cut a sport. He, like Pollard, says he welcomes the efficiency review the Regents have ordered. “Anytime someone comes in and looks at your operation from a different perspective, it’s very healthy so I’m very comfortable with that,” Barta says.
Pollard and Barta made their comments during a weekend appearance on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program. The University of Northern Iowa uses about four-million dollars from general university operations to finance its athletic department. That’s 44 percent of the total U-N-I athletic department budget, but that’s also the lowest level of tuition and taxpayer support for Panther athletics in more than a decade. The university plans to reduce that even more by increasing student fees and using those extra funds to finance U-N-I athletics. Seventeen varsity sports are currently offered at U-N-I.