Last season, Fran McCaffrey led Iowa’s basketball team to a 19-15 mark and a first round win in the NIT. It was the sixth straight season McCaffrey guided the Hawkeyes into the postseason, and in 2015 and ’16 he reached the NCAA Tournament and won a first round game, the first time since 1996-97 that Iowa had won a game in the Big Dance in back-to-back seasons.
Afterward, Iowa AD Gary Barta decided to give McCaffrey an extension. Except he didn’t want to tell anyone about it.
The extension was agreed upon over the summer and signed on Nov. 29 but didn’t become public until last week, when Land of 10‘s Scott Dochterman found it through an open records request.
Instead of announcing the extension on its own terms, after a run of six straight winning seasons, the news was then announced for Iowa, when the Hawkeyes were 2-7 in Big Ten play. Given that timing, it definitely didn’t help the fan base’s reaction that the new extension more than doubled McCaffrey’s buyout, from $4.6 million to $10.2 million.
Keith Murphy of WHO-TV in Des Moines sums up the local reaction to Iowa’s secrecy here.
— SoundOFF (@SoundOFF13) January 29, 2018
Barta explained the extension in a statement on Thursday, but did nothing to address why it wasn’t announced at the time of its signing.
“Fran and I had discussions and reached a verbal agreement in regard to updating his contract during the summer. The process was put on hold during my health related absence (for prostate cancer) from the office this fall, but then finalized in November,” he said. I’m enthused with the leadership Fran has provided our men’s basketball program and excited for the immediate and long-term future of the program.”
There are two lessons to come out of this:
1) If you can, get a job working for Iowa AD Gary Barta. Between McCaffrey and Kirk Ferentz, Iowa is now on the hook for $33.8 million in buyouts to its two most important coaches. That includes $23.6 million for Ferentz, who has one Top 25 finish this decade and who no one else is trying to hire away, and $10.2 million for a sub-.500 coach in the Big Ten and who, like Ferentz, no one else is trying to hire away.
Why guarantee him $10 million in the first place?
2) It’s better to tell the truth up front than have it told for you by a third-party. The truth always finds a way to bubble to the surface anyway, so you might as well present it on your own terms — particularly if you work for a publicly-funded university that is required by law to turn over documents proving that you’ve been hiding something.