Longtime University of Iowa athletic director Gary Barta announced his retirement Friday. He will officially step down on Aug. 1.
Barta, 59, has been the athletic director at Iowa for 17 years, making him the second-longest tenured AD in the Big Ten conference behind Ohio State’s Gene Smith.
Barta has played a big role in college athletics overall, including a recently completed three-year stint as a member of the College Football Playoff selection committee. He served as the CFP committee chair in 2020 and 2021.
“This decision didn’t come suddenly, nor did it come without significant thought, discussion, and prayer,” Barta said in a statement released by the school. “As I’ve reflected, I came to the conclusion there’s never a good time to step away…because there’s always more to be done. That said, I’m confident this is the right time for me and for my family.”
His tenure included strong success on the field. Per his Iowa bio, the school has won 11 Big Ten championships since the fall of 2020. Iowa’s women’s basketball team, led by star Caitlin Clark, played for the national title in 2023.
Iowa’s men’s basketball team has won at least 20 games in each of the past four seasons and won the Big Ten tournament title in the 2021-22 season.
Meanwhile the football team has authored 10 consecutive winning seasons under coach Kirk Ferentz. That success included a 2015 season that saw the team make an appearance in the Big Ten title game and earn a trip to the Rose Bowl. The Hawkeyes also played for the Big Ten title in 2021.
“For someone to have the long tenure that he’s had at Iowa and the impact he’s had is really unusual and speaks to who he is as a person and the great job that he’s done there,” Ohio State’s Smith told ESPN. “He’s hired some outstanding coaches and has a major impact on Iowa and intercollegiate athletics as a whole.”
Off the field, Barta’s tenure featured multiple high-profile lawsuits, which saw Iowa pay out more than $10 million since 2017. Those included a settlement of over $4 million to a group of Black former Iowa football players who sued the university for discrimination. There was also a $6.5 million payout in 2017 over the firing of a former field hockey coach. A former senior athletic director also won $1.4 million in damages in 2017 for a discrimination lawsuit.
Additionally, the school announced this month that it is fully cooperating in a sports wagering investigation and that the school “has received information about 111 individuals,” although only 26 are current athletes.
Barta’s retirement does not come as much of a surprise within the college athletics industry. In September 2022, the school hired Beth Goetz, who was the sitting athletic director at Ball State, to become the deputy athletic director and chief operating officer.
Because Goetz stepped down from a sitting athletic director’s job, that hire led to a belief that Goetz could end up replacing Barta in the near future. She’ll be the favorite for the job. The school said an interim AD will be announced next week.
“The body of work at Iowa — he’s had his share of controversies, as everyone does — but the body of work is extraordinarily good,” former Big 12 commissioner and Iowa athletic director Bob Bowlsby told ESPN. “I’m glad he’s getting out on his own terms and hope he enjoys his retirement.”