Rumors swirl around Lickliter’s future

BY SCOTT MILLER | MARCH 12, 2010 7:30 AM

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Todd Lickliter’s stint at Iowa isn’t over — at least according to the head coach.

Rumors swirled all Thursday, and several sources told The Daily Iowan Lickliter’s three-year career could be coming to an end. But Lickliter himself denied it all after the team’s 22nd loss this season, refusing to admit he coached his last game with the Hawkeyes.

Thursday afternoon, KCJJ-AM, a Coralville radio station, reported Lickliter’s resignation was imminent.

When asked if he had met with Athletics Director Gary Barta, Lickliter said, “No, I haven’t. I’ve been trying to prepare for the Big Ten Tournament and give my undivided attention to this team.”

At halftime of the Hawkeyes’ 59-52 season-ending loss to Michigan on Thursday, Iowa Sports Information Director Phil Haddy called KCJJ’s report “absolutely untrue.”

Lickliter’s contract, which has four years remaining, pays him $1.2 million annually. Firing him would cost the UI $2.4 million, or $600,000 per year remaining on Lickliter’s contract.

If the third-year head coach was to resign, a settlement between the university and Lickliter is likely, one source said.

“With the season ending [Thursday], I’ll do what I do at the end of every year,” Barta said in a statement. “I’ll evaluate 2010 and make preparations for next season.”

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Under Lickliter’s three-year reign, the Hawkeyes are 38-58 (.396), and they have seen nine scholarship players leave the program. In addition, attendance has dropped and revenue has plummeted. This season marks the first time since 1931-32 that an Iowa team finished under .500 for three-consecutive years.

Iowa closed out the regular season with consecutive losses to Wisconsin and Minnesota by 62 combined points, and Lickliter & Company set a program record with its 22 losses. The prior record was 19 defeats in Lickliter’s first year on campus.

One source said high-level boosters and players’ parents have grown tired of the program’s losing ways. Another source contended Lickliter has little off-court relationships with any of his players.

“I don’t really know what’s going on,” said sophomore Matt Gatens, Iowa’s leading scorer. “We’re kind of all up in the air right now. We haven’t heard anything.”

Long considered to be one of the top head-coach jobs in the Big Ten, Iowa hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game in nine years. With only three conference road wins in Lickliter’s three seasons, the Hawkeyes have finished eighth, 10th, and a tie for 10th in the Big Ten.

The head coach’s supporters point to a young core of players such as sophomore Aaron Fuller, freshman Eric May, and Gatens — and a highly regarded recruiting class — as reasons to remain upbeat about the future.

“I’m happy being here,” said May. “It wouldn’t change my feelings, and I have liked the coaching staff we have right now. I have a lot of respect for them. They have given us a very good opportunity to learn this whole season.”

At his season-opening press conference on Oct. 12, 2009, Lickliter compared his team to Seabiscuit, the unlikely thoroughbred champion.

His team would be better, he promised. It would surprise people and compete in the “the best conference in America,” he said. It would improve after two seasons of seemingly nonstop player defections, he pleaded people to believe.

The Hawkeyes finished the season at 10-22.

“My future is that I’m healthy,” Lickliter said. “I have a great family, I love what I do, I’ve done it well. It’s not in my hands.”

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