Iowa seeks details on employees’ cars

Iowa athletics officials were collecting details Wednesday about the types of free cars some coaches and employees drive after acknowledging they did not have up-to-date information in some cases.

The university released data Tuesday showing that at least 57 coaches, assistant coaches, spouses and athletics department employees ranging from fundraisers to the travel coordinator drive vehicles donated by car dealers.

The school said it had no information about cars currently driven by 10 employees, including baseball coach Jack Dahm, wrestling coach Tom Brands and softball coach Marla Looper.

Employees said associate athletics director Mark Abbott has asked for the information.

Dahm said he is currently driving a Jeep Commander but he often trades in his vehicle depending on the time of year. He favors a car that gets better mileage in summer months when he’s out recruiting but he might want a truck to cope with Iowa’s winters.

“I don’t think they lost track. My vehicle changed recently. They didn’t know what it was,” Dahm said of the athletics department, adding he planned to submit updated information Wednesday. “I’m probably going to be getting a new one in about two weeks, just so you know.”

Grounds superintendent Ted Thorn said he was puzzled why the department did not know he was driving a donated Chevy Impala, which he said he’d had for at least a year and had reported driving. He said he too was sending in the information Wednesday.

Associate athletic director Rick Klatt said the employees in question had not submitted recent quarterly reports about their vehicles. He said that’s because they likely have opted not to track their work-related mileage for tax purposes.

“Am I surprised there’s some holes in the list? Not really, given the fact that the source for that document is that quarterly report and some of them just choose not to complete that paperwork,” Klatt said. “Am I concerned about whether, if any of us needed to know what our staff members were driving at a specific time, that we could find out? No. It’s a phone call away.”

A review of the data by The Associated Press found two other employees who were listed as having been given cars from dealers, but were omitted in a separate spreadsheet that detailed their makes, models and years. Klatt said those employees—retired wrestling coach Dan Gable and fundraiser Matt Henderson—technically work for the UI Foundation and their cars aren’t tracked by the department.

Iowa’s program gives car dealers who donate vehicles to the athletics department a credit for a donation—which also helps them qualify for better tickets—and invitations to some golf outings and receptions. The deals save the department money and give employees who are often on the road a set of free wheels. Such programs exist at other Division I schools.

Football coach Kirk Ferentz is driving a 2010 Chevy Tahoe while men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery has a 2010 Lincoln MKT, according to the records. The oldest car in the bunch—a 2006 Cadillac Seville—is driven by Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker.

The benefit isn’t limited to top administrators and coaches.

Lower-level employees such as the associate sports information director and the football equipment manager also drive free cars, according to the data. The two associate athletics directors who oversee compliance with NCAA rules—Fred Mims and Mary Curtis—also get the perk.

Mims noted the compliance staff members who report to them do not participate in the program, which he said had been successful and problem-free.

The relationship between car dealers and big-time college athletics programs has come under scrutiny in the wake of allegations at Ohio State. Earlier this week, Ohio State dropped its review of car purchases by football players and family members after two separate investigations, concluding no athletes were likely to have violated any policies.

Klatt said Iowa athletics director Gary Barta—who drives a 2010 Chevy Suburban donated by Okoboji Motor Co., records show—recently reminded car dealers at an annual golf outing that he trusted they were all “doing things the right way.”

Klatt said Iowa’s car program for employees is not under any type of review. He said the Ohio State case may have prompted individual coaches to take a look at the types of vehicles their players are driving, but Klatt said he wasn’t aware of any problems.

Klatt said that many employees have an expectation they’ll be provided free vehicles based on their line of work. He noted they still have to pay for insurance, maintenance and gas.