IOWA CITY (AP) — An entry-level assistant who is the future son-in-law of Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz will no longer be supervised by the football program to avoid concerns about nepotism, the university said Thursday.
Tyler Barnes, 27, will report for now to associate athletic director Rick Klatt, who oversees the athletic department’s marketing and media relations efforts. Athletic director Gary Barta said Barnes has been a model employee, but the change was necessary after he learned Barnes is set to marry Ferentz’s daughter in July.
The announcement comes after The Gazette reported that Ferentz did not disclose to Barta that Barnes had become engaged to his 25-year-old daughter, Joanne, last year. It marks the second time in less than a year that Barta has taken steps to avoid nepotism questions surrounding Ferentz, whose program hired his son, Brian Ferentz, over 100 other applicants to become the Hawkeyes’ offensive line coach last year. Ferentz, who is entering his 15th season at Iowa, had two other sons on last year’s team.
University spokesman Mark Braun said the story raised questions about whether Barnes’ employment complied with the university’s policy on nepotism, which says familial relationships “should be avoided where possible otherwise, and disclosed and managed” to avoid the appearance of favoritism.
Ferentz’s program hired Barnes in January 2012 to a one-year temporary position to replace LeVar Woods, who had been promoted to assistant coach. Barnes was offered the position on an emergency basis, which means a search was not conducted so the vacancy could be filled immediately.
Barnes had previously worked three years previously as a graduate assistant and a student assistant with the football program. He earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Iowa.
Barta said a university human resources review is under way to determine the “long-term employment options” for Barnes, who had previously been supervised by Scott Southmayd, the football program’s quality control director.
At the time of his job offer from director of football operations Paul Federici in January 2012, Barnes was dating Ferentz’s daughter. About six months into the job, the two became engaged and are expected to marry July 6.
In November, the athletics department asked the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity for a waiver to extend Barnes’ temporary employment for an additional year, through Jan. 16, 2014. A department memo, written by associate athletics director for human resources and compliance Mary Curtis, said Ferentz and Barta had decided not to conduct a search for the job for the time being.
“Meanwhile there is a lot of work to be done and Kirk would like the option to retain Tyler for this position ... in order to give Tyler the additional professional experience needed to compete for a full-time administrative in job the intercollegiate athletics industry,” Curtis wrote. “At some point in time during Tyler’s second year, it is expected that a decision will be made to either rotate a new employee into the position or conduct a search.”
The office approved the waiver for Barnes, who was originally hired at a salary of $32,000 without benefits. Barnes started receiving health and dental insurance last June, and his pay went up 19 percent for his second year to $38,000.
Curtis told the newspaper that she did not know Barnes’ relationship to Ferentz when she sought the waiver.
Ferentz said that he saw no reason to inform Barta or other officials about Barnes’ engagement to his daughter. He defended Barnes’ qualifications for the job, which he said required long hours for relatively little pay and was “a testing ground for us to see what kind of potential they have.”
“Tyler’s expertise is in operations, recruiting and technology,” Ferentz said. “His strengths complement what we have.”
University officials typically approve a conflict-of-interest management plan to prevent relatives from being supervised by one another, but that did not happen for Barnes.
When Iowa hired Brian Ferentz to his $202,000 per-year assistant job last year, Barta said it was his decision and Kirk Ferentz did not participate in the interview process. Brian Ferentz later said at a news conference that his father had offered him the job. To manage the conflict of interest, Barta says he is acting as Brian Ferentz’s supervisor, setting his pay and evaluating his performance based on feedback from his father and other coaches.