Thursday, October 21, 2021

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Civic Skinny

What budget cuts? What pay freeze? Coaches get raises, athletic budgets keep growing. Food fight in East Village.


The budget cuts and pay freezes at the University of Iowa and Iowa State University have some big exceptions: Athletic budgets aren’t touched, and coaches will continue to get very big raises.

After a lot of back and forth, legislators in their wisdom cut $40.9 million from the general university appropriations for this fiscal year, compared with a year earlier.

Ten years ago, in fiscal 2009, state appropriations to the Regents system for general operating funds totaled $592.5 million, about $120 million more than the $472.7 million the schools ended up with for this fiscal year. That’s a 20 percent drop. That’s one reason tuition has risen more than 35 percent in those 10 years.

Ten years ago, the athletic department budgets at the three universities totaled $119.7 million. This year, the total is $207.3 million. That’s a 73 percent increase. The increase has been driven by huge TV contracts and bowl payouts, and — with the exception of an annual $2 million contribution to the university general fund instituted last year by new University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld — the departments have been able to find ways to spend or squirrel away within the departments every extra dollar raised. (And, in the case of the University of Iowa, to pay off $6.5 million in judgments to women who were discriminated against.)

The 2009 athletic figures include injections of around $9 million in general university funds; the 2018 figures have no general funds at Iowa and Iowa State — those athletic departments have become, by their accounting, self-supporting. (Though there has never been any offer to return to the universities the millions and millions of dollars that subsidized the departments before the era of big television contracts and bowl receipts.) The 2018 figure for UNI does include about $4.5 million of general university support.

Prep Iowa

“The athletic departments are independent entities,” the Regents say.

The Regents treat athletics the way they treat the residence and food operations, as something apart from the universities and their academic mission. It is, in their eyes, a business.

And so it is that the coaches get richer and richer while clerks and professors and secretaries and lab assistants face tiny raises, or none at all.

It’s not that the coaches and their assistants are standing in any bread lines.

Kirk Ferentz, the head football coach at the University of Iowa, will receive $2,570,000 in base pay in the coming year — a number that goes up $100,000 each year until the contract expires in 2026. He’ll receive “supplemental compensation” of $1,480,000, another $650,000 as a “longevity incentive,” $500,000 for any season in which the team wins eight or more games, a $10,000 “discretionary fund,” two cars, 35 hours worth of time in a private jet for personal use and another 50 hours for business use, and a skybox at the stadium for his personal use.

He’ll also get incentives ranging from $125,000 for being a top-25 team to $1,500,000 for being national champion, $100,000 to $250,000 for winning a Big Ten division or the Big Ten championship, $100,000 to $375,000 for getting a bowl invitation and an extra $50,000 for winning the Rose Bowl, another $50,000 for being Big Ten Coach of the Year and $100,000 for being a National Coach of the Year and $100,000 if the team achieves “a graduation success rate” of 80 percent.

(A “graduation success rate” is not the same as a graduation rate. The “success rate” is a figure conjured up by the NCAA to make graduation rates look better. In the most recent year, for instance, athletes in all sports at Iowa had a graduation success rate of 90 and a graduation rate — as calculated by federal standards — of 77. Football was the only sport at Iowa that fell below the 80 percent “success” threshold, hitting 76 in the most recent year.)

Last year, Coach Ferentz earned $5,075,000, according to state figures. He could walk away with $7,085,000 this year if he has a national championship team. And that’s not counting the value of 35 hours of private jet time (probably at least $150,000), the cost of the suite (around $60,000) and the value of two new cars (probably $80,000 to $100,000).

And if the budget gets a little tight at the Ferentz household, the coach is free to make outside deals for endorsements and the like.

Assistant coaches fare almost as well. While the average faculty raise for last fiscal year was 2.6 percent and the average for non-bargaining employees was 2.5 percent, Ferentz’s contract guarantees annual raises of at least 8 percent for 12 coaches who work for him after any year in which the team wins at least seven games and the “graduation success rate” is at least 67.5 percent. The raises can be up to 20 percent depending on the team’s final ranking in the polls.

The base salary for assistants Chris Doyle and Phil Parker is $675,000 this year. Brian Ferentz is paid $625,000, Ken O’Keefe $540,000, Reese Morgan $460,000 and Seth Wallace $400,000. Four others earn between $270,00 and $335,000.

The average salary for a full professor at the University of Iowa is $138,414. For an associate professor it is $95,336, for an assistant professor $87,958. …

A nasty food fight in the East Village was settled in court the other day.

The Continental, a restaurant on East Locust, sued the company that owns Eatery A, a restaurant on Ingersoll, alleging that the Eatery A people were trying to evict The Continental so Eatery A could open its own restaurant at the site.

The lawsuit, filed in Polk County District Court on May 9, alleged that Eatery A — under its corporate name of C.H.L. Development — purchased the East Locust property last fall, a property where The Continental is operating under a lease that runs to June 30, 2020, with a five-year option to renew.

Since the purchase, the lawsuit alleged, “defendant has created a hostile atmosphere through harassment and threats with the intent of forcing the Continental to vacate the property.” The suit alleged that C.H.L. regularly sent threatening letters, locked The Continental out of the basement (where it needed access to clear the grease trap, spray for pests and reach the electrical panels and plumbing equipment). The suit further alleged that C.H.L. destroyed the patio Continental used for outdoor dining and did a bunch of other not-nice stuff.

The lawsuit alleged malicious interference with business, sought injunctions against C.H.L. and asked for punitive damages.

And then it was all over. On May 25, Jason Simon, the owner of C.H.L., e-mailed that “the matter with The Continental is a non-starter….It has been resolved.” On May 29, lawyers for The Continental filed a one-sentence document with the court dismissing the lawsuit. Neither Simon nor lawyers for The Continental answered questions about how it was resolved. …

David Chivers, the Des Moines North graduate who came back to town a few years ago to become president and publisher of The Register, resigned on June 10. Gannett is eliminating the jobs of president and publisher at its newspapers, and Chivers was one of the last to go. Chivers, who knows a lot about the digital world, hopes to stay in Des Moines. His departure leaves the paper with an organization chart that looks like a maze, with no local boss and with department heads reporting to folks in suburban Washington or Cincinnati or Springfield, Missouri, or Louisville, among other places. …

Rick Green, the one-time editor of The Des Moines Register who moved on to Cincinnati and then Bergen County in New Jersey, now is editor of the Courier-Journal in Louisville, and part of his new job is overseeing the news operation of the Register. That’s probably a good thing, since he knows the town and the paper after living here for four years or so.

Register executive editor Carol Hunter formerly reported to Amalie Nash, a Gannett regional editor who also is a former Register editor. Now, Green reports to Nash, who was just promoted to executive editor for local news at all 109 Gannett dailies (though not USA Today). …

United Airlines is dropping its nonstop Des Moines-to-Newark service this fall….

Kent Sorenson, the one-time legislator who sold his allegiance in the 2012 Republican caucus battle to Ron Paul after first backing Michele Bachmann and subsequently became inmate No. 15000-030 at the federal prison in Thomson, Illinois, was released on April 13 and now is under supervised parole in Iowa.

Sorenson, once a rising star with Iowa’s evangelical right, was sentenced to 15 months by Senior Federal Judge Robert Pratt after the Warren County legislator was found to have willfully filed false reports of federal campaign expenditures and to have falsified records to obstruct justice in relation to a federal investigation.

At the time, his lawyer said Sorenson “would take it like a man” and not appeal. He then appealed to the 8th Circuit, which upheld the sentence handed down by Pratt.

The other day, too, the 8th Circuit upheld the convictions of Jesse Benton, John Frederick Tate and Dmitri Kesari, officials with Ron Paul’s campaign who bought Sorenson’s allegiance. Kesari was sentenced to three months in prison, and the other two were sentenced to two years of probation by Federal District Judge John Jarvey. …

Look for some lawsuits to be filed by women alleging harassment by ousted Iowa Finance Authority Director Dave Jamison, local lawyers say. At least a couple of women are “lawyering up,” one lawyer says. Meantime, two investigations of the IFA are under way: For $350 an hour, the state has hired Des Moines lawyer Mark Weinhardt to look into the conduct of Jamison, and State Auditor Mary Mosiman is looking into the IFA’s finances. ♦

Nate Boulton

How many things did Nate Boulton do wrong?

Let’s start with the ass-grabbing and frotteurism. Repugnant.

Then the decision to run for governor in the age of #metoo. Risky.

Then the campaign for governor in which he raised more than $1.5 million from true believers — particularly those in the labor movement he championed — who had no idea he was a harasser. Selfish.

Then the denial to Dave Price on Channel 13 that there was anything in his background — accusations or allegations about sexual harassment — that could cause a political problem. Deceitful.

Then the statement that harassment in a social setting is less awful than harassment at work. Delusional.

Then the defense that he has long been a defender of women’s rights. Pathetic.

Nate Boulton was right to leave the race. And he was wrong to have entered it. ♦

— Michael Gartner

David Johnson

David Johnson, the lone Independent in the Iowa legislature, has decided not to seek reelection from his senate district in a northwest chunk of the state.

That is too bad.

Johnson — a conservative Republican who morphed into a moderate Republican and then (save his strong anti-abortion views) a liberal Independent — has been a voice for common sense and for civility in a Legislature not always known for either.

He served 20 years in the Legislature — two terms in the House of Representatives and four in the Senate — and was a strong advocate for conserving our natural resources and our cherished values. A onetime farmhand, he knew the value of our land; a onetime country newspaperman, he knew the blessings of our liberties.

It’s a shame he’s leaving, but it was great that he was there. ♦

— Michael Gartner


  1. Mr. Gartner,
    I love your Civic Skinny….I always learn a lot. As a former journalist and lobbyist..and all around news/political junkie..that’s a real feat. I do continue to wonder how my $73.00 month subscription for the Register supports my ‘local’ paper when I learn of this new and muddled editorial/president/publisher management structure. And it makes me very sad to Lynn Hicks on TV speaking for the Attorney General’s office in his new job. We need him and those like him at the Register….
    Thank you, thank you….

    1. Marijo Corley says:

      You learn a lot? Really? And you are a former journalist?
      Please get another source for your information. One requirement should be that it is truthful, accurate, and ethical.

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