Friday, April 06, 2007

UI Held Hostage Day 440 - UI Opposes Gambling

April 6, 7:00 a.m.

Barta on Gambling Like Bush on War
(with links, below, to today's stories and other references)

What do Gary Barta and George Bush have in common -- besides their initials?

The similarity just occurred to me, and it's helped me understand the University of Iowa's approach to partnerships between its athletic program and the gambling industry.

President Bush has a democratically elected U.S. Senate and House that want our troops out of Iraq. Some of our best military leaders -- those who are free to speak their minds -- believe there is no "military solution" to the chaos our military is continuing to fuel there. According to polls, some 70% of the American people want to bring our troops home. And yet, to quote a line from Pete Seeger's song regarding LBJ's persistence in Vietnam 40 years earlier, "Waist deep in the big muddy and the big fool says 'Push on.'" Bush is insisting on "surging" on, increasing the numbers of dead and injured Americans and Iraqis -- and the multi-trillion-dollar national debt I'll be leaving my great-granddaughter.

Consider the analogy with Barta's response to the opposition to his position on his ties to the gambling industry. Let's first consider the opposition he confronts, and then his response.

(1) The NCAA expressly forbids, in events with which it is affiliated as an organization, any advertising by state lotteries or gambling casinos.

(2) It "strongly recommends" its member schools follow the same standards with regard to their own athletic programs.

(3) It wrote at least two strong letters of admonition along these lines to Barta -- which he failed to reveal (so far as I know) -- following the Riverside Gambling Casino partnership with the football program last fall (package football game-gambling-transportation deals for high rollers, $165,000 for a gamblers' skybox, and advertising on the score board) and the Iowa Lottery commercial this spring.

(4) In its letter to Barta of September 13, 2006, the NCAA explained, for the benefit of those who refuse to see, unless it is expressly pointed out to them, the obvious conflict between the mission of institutions of higher education and the promotion of gambling:
"Participation in gambling and sports wagering has increased exponentially over the past five years . . . hasten[ing] a craze among college students, athletes and otherwise. . . . [M]any students . . . fall deeply into debt, and run the risk of entering into a vicious cycle of compulsive gambling. Unfortunately, it is a pattern of compulsive behavior that is repeatedly seen within this age group, and especially among student-athletes, who, within their nature, tend to be drawn towards competition."
(5)The UI President's Council on Athletics already has a policy prohibiting advertising of gambling, consistent with the NCAA standards, that was arrived at the last time these issues were addressed. ("The Department of Athletics shall not enter into sponsorship agreements that provide for the advertising and/or promotion of gambling . . ..") This policy has been, and continues to be, violated by Athletic Director Barta.

So what are the possibilities as to what Barta did when he arrived at Iowa? (a) That it never occurred to him that there might be rules and policies with which he should become familiar? (b) That he asked for the rules and policies, but never read them? (c) That he read them, but there was some part of "shall not" (enter into sponsorship agreements promoting gambling) that he did not understand? (d) That he fully understood the "shall not" policy, but that he decided to violate it anyway? Of these possibilities "which would be worse, in a way?"

(6) The UI Faculty Senate unanimously passed a resolution that all ties between the school's athletic programs and gambling be severed.

(7) The UI Faculty Council unanimously passed a similar resolution.

(8) Now, as of yesterday, the UI President's Council on Athletics, by a vote of 12 to 2, once again took the same position (that is, a position consistent with its pre-existing policy).

Just as Bush is legally free (up to a point) to ignore the wishes of the American people and their elected representatives, so is Barta free to stiff the NCAA and the unanimous faculty of the University of Iowa. And right now he and Bush seem equally inclined to push their legal rights to the limit in the pursuit of their own personal opinions and desires.

Just as Bush is legally empowered to "veto" bills from Congress, so Barta is legally empowered to totally ignore the recommendations of the President's Council on Athletics. And he appears to be prepared to do just that.

What has he said, following their meeting? Today's stories are linked below. Here are some samples:

Diane Heldt quotes Barta as saying, "I'm not going to say I have a preference one way or another. My stance right now . . . is status quo. It's a situation that's very important but not urgent."

She continues:
"It's a complicated issue with no absolute answer, Barta said Thursday.

"An advertising relationship with the lottery has existed for years, he noted, and Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa have similar lottery ties. Barta also said other UI organizations, such as Hancher Auditorium and the Alumni Association, have promotional relationships with gambling.

"'Is it an institutional decision or just an Athletics Department decision?' he said."
Ryan Suchomel reports:
"'After listening to the debate across campus, I'm not surprised,' Athletics Director Gary Barta said of the vote. 'Now we'll take the next step and visit with the president and figure where we go from here.'

"Barta and PCOA chairman Charles Lynch will take the committee's vote to UI interim President Gary Fethke in the weeks ahead. Because the PCOA is an advisory committee, however, there is a chance that no action will be taken."
And Tom Witosky's story has this to say:
"But Gary Barta, Iowa's athletic director, indicated after the meeting that no decision will be made quickly. Instead, Barta said he would meet with interim President Gary Fethke and make a decision after a full review.

"'Right now I am for the status quo,' Barta said. 'It is a situation that is important, but not urgent, and it is very complicated. We don't have to make a decision quickly because there is nothing pending.'"
"Nothing pending"? Nothing, that is, except for your continuing violations of pre-existing UI policies prohibiting what you've been doing, unanimous resolutions of the faculty, and yesterday's near-unanimous vote of the President's Council on Athletics endorsing the pre-existing policy.

Unless Interim President Fethke is prepared to stand up to Barta and enforce the University's policies -- which, from his previous statements seems unlikely -- the least that can be said is that it looks like no major changes are coming soon, either in Iraq or "to a university near you."

As Lord Acton might have said, "The power given educational administrators tends to corrupt. The absolute power given universities' athletic directors corrupts absolutely."

Links to Today's Stories and References

Today's Stories

Diane Heldt, "Committee recommends UI sever ties to lottery, gambling," Gazette Online, April 5, 2007, 4:54 p.m.

Ryan Suchomel, "PCOA favors cutting ties with lottery; UI advisory committee doesn't have final say, however," Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 6, 2007, p. A1

Tom Witosky, "Panel: U of I, lottery should cut ties; The university's faculty athletic board votes that lottery promotions shouldn't be tied to school athletics," Des Moines Register, April 6, 2007

Additional References

. . . and his story yesterday: Tom Witosky, "Gambling ads prompt letters to U of I; A lottery commercial that parodied the Iowa Fight Song and a hotel casino’s video ad at Kinnick bring an admonishment," Des Moines Regislter, April 5, 2007

The Register's reproduction of the NCAA's September 2006 letter to Barta (regarding the Riverside Gambling Casino) and the UI President's Council on Athletics policy prohibiting athletic department ties to the gambling industry.

And see Written Testimony of William S. Saum, Director of Agent, Gambling and Amateurism Activities, National Collegiate Athletic Association, before the Judiciary Committee of the Nevada State Assembly, March 2, 2001

Anyone old enough to remember the Vietnam War may recall Pete Seeger's song, "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy," written for the "Smothers' Brothers Comedy Hour," but censored by CBS. It contained the line, "Waist deep in the Big Muddy, and the big fool says, 'Push on.'"

"Which would be worse, in a way?" was a line used by UC Berkeley professor Michael Rogan in the CBS "60 Minutes" segment called "Ronald Reagan the Movie," December 15, 1985 (also the title of Professor Rogan's paper, presentation, and subsequent book). Professor Rogan had discovered that President Reagan had referred in speeches to an event from a fictional film as if it really had occurred. Morley Safer asked Professor Rogan whether he thought the President knew he was misrepresenting history or whether Reagan thought the event actually had occurred. Rogan paused, then responded, before addressing the question, "Which would be worse, in a way?"

The Lord Acton quote ("Power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely") can be found here.

Personal note: This blog entry is not intended as an "attack" on Gary Barta, and certainly not on the University of Iowa's athletic program. He may very well be -- and I presume he is until I'm shown evidence to the contrary -- a competent and caring Athletic Director, a wonderful husband, father and friend to all. In the recent basketball coach search he certainly was able to both move quickly (getting the job done in under two weeks) and come up with what appears to be a top flight choice by all the standards he applied. I am personally looking forward to what I anticipate Coach Lickliter will be doing with the basketball program. My concerns, as laid out in the blog entries linked below, are limited to what I believe to be an inappropriate association by the University in general, and especially the athletic program in particular, with the gambling industry. Having said that, I also acknowledge that much of this involves a history for which Barta is not responsibile. He walked into it. That does not mean, however, that he could not have reviewed the practice and brought it into compliance with the University's anti-gambling policy.

Some "FromDC2Iowa" Blog Entries on Athletics and Gambling

Nicholas Johnson, "Barta on Gambling Like Bush on War" in "UI Held Hostage Day 440 - UI Opposes Gambling," April 6, 2007

Nicholas Johnson, "Register Blows Lid Off UI Athletics-Gambling Ties" in "UI Held Hostage Day 439 - NCAA Criticizes Gambling Tie," April 5, 2007

Nicholas Johnson, "Affordable Housing Ideas" in "UI Held Hostage Day 436 - April 2," April 2, 2007

Nicholas Johnson, "Understanding the University of Iowa: Athletics and the UIHC" in "UI Held Hostage Day 429 - March 26," March 26, 2007

Nicholas Johnson, "Democracy in General and . . .: Thinking Back" in "UI Held Hostage Day 426 - March 23," March 23, 2007

Nicholas Johnson, "The University of Iowa's Gambling Addiction" in "UI Held Hostage Day 415 - March 12," March 12, 2007

Nicholas Johnson, "UI, Athletics and Gambling Partnerships" in "UI Held Hostage Day 414 - March 11," March 11, 2007

Nicholas Johnson, "More 'Revenue is Needed'" in "UI Held Hostage Day 411 - March 8," March 8, 2007

Nicholas Johnson, "UI Loves Gambling" in "UI Held Hostage Day 410 - March 7," March 7, 2007

Nicholas Johnson, "The Gazette's 'Homers and Gomers" in "UI Held Hostage Day 408 - March 5," March 5, 2007

Nicholas Johnson, "'The Iowa Bets Song,'" "UI 'Can't Win, Can't Break Even, and Won't Get Out of the Game'" and "Iowa: A Place to Gamble" in "UI Held Hostage Day 397 - February 22," February 22, 2007

Nicholas Johnson, "UI Thumbs Nose at NCAA: Won't Get Out of Bed with Organized Gambling" in "UI Held Hostage Day 386 - Feb. 11," February 11, 2007

Nicholas Johnson, "UI Held Hostage Day 383 - Feb. 8," February 8, 2007 (essay about Iowa Lottery commercial, with link to You Tube version -- now no longer available on You Tube)

Nicholas Johnson, "The analytically bizarre editorial about athletics and gambling" in "UI Held Hostage Day 381 - Feb. 6," February 6, 2007

Nicholas Johnson, "Gambling on the Hawkeyes; Wanna Bet? NCAA to Legalize, Organize, Profitize Intercollegiate Sports Betting?" in "UI President Search Held Hostage Day 66 - Jan. 21," January 21, 2007

Nicholas Johnson, "UI Football Promoting Gambling?" September 16, 2007


UICCU and "Optiva"

The UICCU-Optiva story is essentially behind us. There may be occasional additions "for the record," but for the most part the last major entry, with links to the prior material from October 2006 through March 2007, is
"UICCU and 'Optiva'" in Nicholas Johnson, "UI Held Hostage Day 406 - March 3 - Optiva," March 3, 2007.

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[Note: If you're new to this blog, and interested in the whole UI President Search story . . .

These blog entries begin with Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search I," November 18, 2006.

Wondering where the "UI Held Hostage" came from? Click here. (As of January 25 the count has run from January 21, 2006, rather than last November.)

For any given entry, links to the prior 10 will be found in the left-most column. Going directly to will take you to the latest. Each contains links to the full text of virtually all known media stories and commentary, including mine, since the last blog entry. Together they represent what The Chronicle of Higher Education has called "one of the most comprehensive analyses of the controversy." The last time there was an entry containing the summary of prior entries' commentary (with the heading "This Blog's Focus on Regents' Presidential Search") is Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search XIII -- Last Week," December 11, 2006.

My early proposed solution to the conflict is provided in Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search VII: The Answer," November 26, 2006.

Searching: the fullest collection of basic documents related to the search is contained in Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search - Dec. 21-25," December 21, 2006 (and updated thereafter), at the bottom of that blog entry under "References." A Blog Index of entries on all subjects since June 2006 is also available. And note that if you know (or can guess at) a word to search on, the "Blogger" bar near the top of your browser has a blank, followed by "SEARCH THIS BLOG," that enables you to search all entries in this Blog since June 2006.]

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Media Stories and Commentary

See above.

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Nicholas Johnson's Main Web Site
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Nicholas Johnson's Blog Index


Anonymous said...

Why are you singling out Gary Barta???

Why not go after the cynical treatment of sin taxes by our elected leadership. After all, they are the ones addicted to the funds from gambling; Both in their own campaigns and as revenues for the State.

The State of Iowa's leadership is addicted to gambling. Including our new Governor.

I agree the UI Athletics Gambling connection is not a good one and I happen to agree with the PCOA, but let's look at the bigger picture here.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your reporting and commentary. In so many ways, the UI has morphed from an institution primarily concerned with education to yet another "me-too" pseudo-corporate entity. As a UI researcher, I find this transformation to be very disheartening. It was also depressing to read how our interim prez thought the 1.2+ million salary for our latest basketball coach was just fine, as he is a firm believer in "The Market". So the UI is being led by such a person?

The UI is in a vicious downward spiral: the more it acts less like an entity devoted to the good of Iowa, the less support it will get from Des Moines and Iowa taxpayers in general.

Education, per se, is not a money maker. States recognized this and provide support for public schools. We need just a modicum of idealism from those who are manipulating the future course of UI.

I applaud your efforts to inform and hope that a growing number of (rather sleepy) faculty members get off their tenured bee-hinds and fight for the old system (though which they greatly benefit).