In case you've been in a hole or out of the country, as a Hawkeye Insider you learned that something is going on in the Iowa basketball program. The rumor mill started churning on Thursday that Coach Todd Lickliter would not be retained.
It's the hot story in Hawkeye Land and HI.com will continue to follow it. I will try to provide what I hear on the topic each day. Here's what I heard through Saturday morning:
IOWA CITY, Ia. – As I talked about on Friday, the Iowa basketball situation looks to be a bit messy right now. It was clear in Indianapolis on Thursday that the lines of communication between Athletics Director Gary Barta and Coach Todd Lickliter were crossed and, perhaps, even closed.
Lickliter seemed to still be soaking up the possibility that he might out of a job following the Big Ten Tournament loss to Michigan. He asked that reporters talk to his boss about what was going on. Barta released a statement after the game that failed to support his coach.
I definitely think Lickliter knew something was up when he took postgame questions in Indy. I also think he was still wrapping his head around what was going on. When he met with us in Iowa City on Tuesday afternoon for his pre-tournament press conference, he felt like his job was secure.
KCJJ-AM in Coralville jumped out in the lead for this story on Thursday. The station reported at around noon that Lickliter would be let go after the season. Its source stated that the university would cite health concerns of the coach as the reason for his exit.
I think (based on conversations) that was the way the Iowa administration would have liked to see it end. Unfortunately for them, Lickliter wasn't going out like that.
Lickliter mentioned throughout the year that he felt fine after missing three December games following surgery to repair his carotid artery. He pushed that point on Thursday.
The coach said, unsolicited, during his press conference that his health was good. 2010 recruit Ben Brust told me that he asked Lickliter about his health before and after the game because he heard of the KCJJ report. The coach told him that he was feeling great.
This situation reminds me of how things were handled by Bob Bowlsy with regards to Tom Davis. The then-Iowa AD approached the Hawkeyes' all-time winningest coach to see if he could get him to retire. Davis didn't bite and it went down in history that he was run out of town.
My take is that Lickliter feels betrayed by Barta, who has had his back throughout his three seasons at Iowa. The coach remembers that he was promised a practice facility would be done by now and that the rebuilding project he was handed warranted a seven-year contract.
Lickliter detractors can point to player transfers and poor on-court performance (15-39 in Big Ten) as reasons for termination. If it's true that some current players expressed to the AD that it wasn't working with the coach, that's reason for the AD to be concerned.
The problem is that Barta has offered reasons for player defections in support of his coach up until this week. Then, he did an about-face.
So, if Barta wants to get rid of his coach, which all signs point to that being the case, it won't be a nice-and-neat, coach-is-sick break. It likely will be an outright firing. In doing so, he'll be admitting that he made a mistake in hiring Lickliter.
For Lickliter, as I said, he's not going to make it easy on the AD or Iowa. He's due a $2.4 million buyout for the remaining four years of his deal. He's going to want it all and I don't blame him.
Barta now must find the money to pay off Lickliter and to hire a new coach who can fix a program with fan apathy and slumping attendance. That will take some work.
I'm hearing from sources to not expect any announcement on Lickliter's future until at least Wednesday. It's not a good to have this program in limbo. It's fragile.
Right now, a young team is missing practice time allowed by the NCAA. The coaches can't recruit with these rumors swirling.
I'll be back with more on this story before the end of Saturday as we continue to feed Hawkeye Insider subscribers information on this on-going season.
Here are our previous installments of The Lickliter Watch: