Barta: Football media attention has been difficult


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The recent high-profile, negative attention directed at the University of Iowa football program has been difficult, espeically in the era of social media and the Internet, Athletics Director Gary Barta said on Tuesday.

He addressed the Athletics Department’s recent string of public incidents at the UI Faculty Senate meeting Tuesday, saying the national media and the public reacted too quickly to the recent hospitalization of 13 football players. The instant negative publicity resulted from what he described as the media’s mentality of getting infomation fast in the Internet era, even if “facts be damned.”

“I feel we’re a society of immediate reaction,” Barta said.

This year, the university has been in the national spotlight for several incidents, including athletes being arrested on drug charges, the sexual-abuse trial of former Hawkeye football player Cedric Everson, and most recently, the hospitalizations of 13 football players following a strenuous workouts on Jan 24. The players suffered from rhabdomyolysis, which can cause kidney damage.

“That was a difficult period to go through,” Barta said.

In December, wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos was arrested for seven drug-related counts (most charges were droppped; he recieved deferred judgment on marijuana posession), and sophomore running back Adam Robinson was arrested for possession of marijuana just three weeks later.

Johnson-Koulianos was dismissed from the team and Robinson suspended, but Barta said those difficult decisions were the right ones.

“Both of those young men, [we’re] obviously disappointed in their decision-making,” he said.

The intense publicity over both incidents presented the Athletics Department with a new challenge, he said.

“We really find the social network is becoming an interesting phenomenon, and we’re trying to deal with that,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to go away.”

The state Board of Regents launched a 90-day investigation into the hospitalization of the 13 players on Jan. 28.

Barta said on Tuesday he’s waiting to learn more about how the unique incident happened, so officials will “never have it happen again.”

“Ultimately, we’ll find out what happened so we can put the incident to closure,” he said.

In addition to Barta’s comments, UI President Sally Mason appointed two new faculty athletics representatives at the Faculty Senate meeting.

Mason selected Ellen Herman, a clinical professor in the College of Education, and Gene Parkin, a professor in the College of Engineering, to replace former representative of 10 years Elizabeth Altmaier, a professor in the College of Education. Parkin and Herman will begin in their new positions July 1.

“I look forward to learning about [the position],” Herman said. “What we are doing well and what we need to change.”

The faculty members monitor compliance with NCAA regulations. They’ll also oversee Hawkeye student-athletes to verify their academic eligibility, advise the president, and speak on behalf of the university, according to a university press release.

Nationally, the number of faculty positions and the role they play in a university varies depending upon the division and institution, said Ralph Bertrand, the president of the Faculty Athletics Representative Association.

“They need to ensure that students [athletes] are making progress to a certain degree and enrolling in the appropriate classes,” he said.

Barta has suggested numerous improvements to the Presidential Committee on Athletics, another advisory committee for the president, including reviewing the committee more often.

“I think we can do a better job than what we’re doing,” he said.

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