Game Takes a Backseat to Lickliter Rumors

Hawkeye Insider publisher Rob Howe checks in from Indianapolis with the latest on the speculation that Tod Lickliter could be out as Iowa men's basketball coach.

INDIANAPOLIS - Todd Lickliter said to ask Gary Barta, who released a non-committal statement. Iowa's head coach and athletics director didn't say anything. In doing so, they said a lot.

Barta has backed his coach at every turn since hiring him three years ago. He was willing to shout it from the mountain tops.

Given the chance here on Wednesday to stamp out a churning rumor mill spitting out that Lickliter's days with the Hawkeyes had come to an end, Barta shut up. He issued a statement instead of answering questions from the media.

"I'm so proud of our young men," Barta said in the release after his school‘s 59-52 loss to Michigan in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. "It's been a tough season, but the future is very bright with this group.

"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 season."

That sure didn't sound like a ringing endorsement, did it? The floor was Barta's and he tapped danced.

Todd Lickliter said he hadn't spoken with his boss about the future. He also didn't sound sound real confident about his job security.

"You're asking me to answer on speculation. I don't have any," Lickliter said. "I haven't been told I'm not (Iowa's coach), so until I'm told I'm not, I've got to…I am."

He added: "You know, my future is that I'm healthy, I have a great family. I love what I do. I've done it well, (and his future at Iowa) in not in my hands."

So, we've got nothing official from the AD or the coach. Sports information director Phil Haddy says to not expect anything from the university until next week, if something happens at all.

KCJJ in Iowa City reported on Thursday that Lickliter would be let go after the season due to health concerns. Barta said down here that report was false.

I don't think Lickliter would leave because of health issues. Although he underwent surgery to repair a carotid artery this season and missed three games, he's said he's felt fine since his return.

I heard enough down here on Thursday to believe that Iowa would like to hire a new coach for next season. I haven't gained enough information to say it's a done deal. I sensed it's still to be worked out and these things don‘t usually happen quickly.

Barta needs to come up with $2.4 million to buy out Lickliter. He then must raise funds to pay a new coach, who likely would cost him $2 million annually, at minimum. This is not the best economic climate and big money donors aren‘t falling over themselves to help a basketball program viewed apathetically by much of the fan base.

The Iowa players said Barta met with each of them individually during the last week. None of them admitted going to the athletics director with an ultimatum that either he or the coach must go, as has been rumored.

Aaron Fuller said that he felt the conversation with Barta was out of the ordinary.

"The program really is not where it needs to be at right now," he said. "I'm sure he's concerned and wants to make sure the players are alright."

Every player I spoke with said they would be back if Lickliter returned. They also said they think their coach should be back.

So, there you have it. We have nothing officially, but plenty of smoke and a possible fire starting.

We'll continue to discuss this story at Hawkeye Insider in the days ahead.

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