By Justin VanLaere
As Horace noted, “Nothing is swifter than rumor.” Those with interests in the Iowa basketball program found that out last week. With rumors surfacing Thursday that proclaimed anything from Lickliter would be resigning to a buyout had been reached and Lickliter would be fired after Iowa’s inevitable opening round loss to Michigan. It turns out, none of these rumors are true at this point in time. Todd has come out and stated he is healthy and plans to remain as Iowa’s head basketball coach.
Here’s the thing with this current situation we find ourselves in. What really happened behind the scenes recently in Iowa City, what has happened over the course of the year, and what has been promised to some will likely never come to light. It comes down to anonymous sources, some more connected that others, and the information they are giving out. I have no doubts that some information being exchanged is filtered, some of that information is being tweaked, and some of that information is purposely incorrect. Don’t expect to get a clear answer to what went down even after the dust settles.
So what of Coach Lickliter? As this season progressed, some Hawkeye fans that frequent the boards here at Hawkeye Nation (myself included) were ready to give Lickliter another year, as long as he didn’t have the same player issues that plagued his program in his first couple years at Iowa. Just as long as a key contributor of this program didn’t transfer after this season, another year was warranted just to see if the ship could be righted. Assuming player issues have yet again crept up, it would be hypocritical to not make the realization that it was time to move on.
Just a month ago, Barta came out and publicly supported Lickliter and what he was doing with the program. Things looks as if, even though Iowa was in the midst of one of the worst years in Iowa history, that Gary was ready to give Lickliter more time. However, moments after Iowa’s loss this past Thursday, it appeared as if Barta’s faith (at least publicly) had been shaken. Instead of coming out and backing Lickliter once more, he released a statement in which he said, “With the season ending today, I’ll do what I do at the end of every year. I’ll evaluate 2010 and make preparations for next year.” Read that how you will.
If it’s a forgone conclusion that Barta is going to make a move, then he had best be prepared to make a big splash hire. Fortunately for Iowa’s A.D., this time around, the Hawkeyes are a bit more attractive than his first attempt three years ago. This Iowa team has some good building blocks in Gatens, Fuller, Payne, and May, with nothing to say of the #26 ESPN ranked 2010 recruiting class assuming the incoming coach could retain them. On top of that, Barta can dangle the carrot of a new practice facility being contructed. Talk is cheap – Alford was promised a practice facility would be coming, Lickliter was promised the same thing… finally it’s getting done. In the past, it was all talk, now Barta has the moved Earth to show a prospective coach. It’s an incredible opportunity to get the Iowa program back to where it used to be, where it should be… like Top 10 all-time type of stuff.
So what’s going to happen? At the time of this article, the posters at Hawkeyenation.com have drawn the conclusion that Lickliter will be terminated. While the opinion of the users of just one of the many Iowa message boards doesn’t represent the entire Hawkeye population, it does seem to project what most of the fans are thinking.
My thoughts are the same as they have been since the rumors came out on Thursday. Barta will meet with Lickliter sometime this week, they will talk about what’s happening in the program, wherein Todd will be given an Alfordian-like ultimatum. This meeting will certainly cover a broad spectrum of topics, but will likely focus on current players’ opinion and what (or if any) changes can be made.
No matter how you look at it, money will not be a deciding factor in Barta’s decision. Iowa’s athletic department has consistently been in the black somewhere in the ballpark of $10M per year. The money is there to buyout Lickliter’s contract, to buyout a current coach’s contract, and to offer said coach a gob of money. The money is also there to allow the attendance to continue to dwindle, ticket sales to plummet, and fan interest to decrease. I’m not sure the program loses that many more fans should Lickliter be retained, the folks that pay attention to Iowa right now are already the die-hard fans. So no matter how you look at it, money is not a factor in what goes down in Iowa City.
One person is not bigger than the program; that goes for player, coach, booster, parent, former player, you name it. However, one person is going to have to be the guy to make the ultimate decision. It’s going to come down to Gary Barta deciding what he thinks is best for his coach, for the players, for the University of Iowa, for his job, but more importantly, for the future of the program. The ball is in Barta’s hands, will he pass or take the shot?