More Register buyouts. Drake got $300,000 for ISU game. Beating patsies earned Ferentz $500,000 bonus in 2018.

Civic Skinny

DES MOINES CITYVIEW

Iowa State University paid Drake University $300,000 to play that football game in Ames on Dec. 1.

The figure apparently has not been reported.

Drake also got 300 free tickets and free admission for the marching band, mascots and game workers. And parking passes for one truck, four buses and six cars.

Big-time schools regularly schedule weak, non-conference teams so they can pad their records and look more appealing at bowl-selection time. And, often, a win over a patsy can mean thousands of dollars in bonus money for the coaches. Sometimes, a cupcake win can make a team eligible for one of the 40 college football bowls — which also adds to a coach’s pay.

Until the 2018 season, for instance, Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell’s contract called for a $500,000 bonus in each season that his team won at least six games — half of the schedule. Iowa State usually plays three non-conference games — one against Iowa and two against teams that usually are easy to beat, teams like the University of Northern Iowa or Akron or South Dakota State or, a 2019 foe, the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

So Campbell went into each of his first two seasons probably having to win just four of his nine Big 12 conference games to get the bonus money or to get a bowl invitation — and, for him, a bowl victory means another $100,000.

(Campbell’s latest contract, signed in June, took out the six-win bonus but increased his guaranteed pay and supplemental deals to at least $3.5 million from $2.1 million. It kept the bonus for a bowl victory. He didn’t get the six-game bonus in 2016, when his record was 3 and 9, but did get it with an 8 and 4 record in 2017.)

There’s no reason for a small college to offer itself up as a sacrifice to the football gods in Ames or Iowa City or Lincoln or Madison, of course, except for money. Without big television contracts, most small colleges lose money on athletics — UNI supplements its athletic budget with about $4.5 million from funds generated by tuition or state appropriations. So athletic directors are more than willing to send their teams to slaughter for a price.

And the checks are getting bigger and bigger.

In the 2018 season, for instance, the University of Iowa paid Northern Illinois $1 million to come to Iowa City for the opener on Sept. 1 and paid UNI $600,000 for a game two weeks later. Iowa won both games, and those victories plus a win over the third non-conference opponent — Iowa State — helped the Hawkeyes finish with an 8-4 record. Those three victories allowed Coach Kirk Ferentz to get an eight-win bonus of $500,000.

They also assured that the team would get a bowl invitation — meaning he’d get another $100,000, at minimum.

The Drake-Iowa State deal was a last-minute Hail Mary by Iowa State. Its Sept. 1 opener against South Dakota State was canceled because of the weather, so it scheduled a Dec. 1 game against the University of the Incarnate Word, a school in San Antonio that plays in the Southland Conference. But Incarnate Word had an out. It could cancel the deal if it got into the playoffs of its NCAA subdivision, and it did.

Iowa State was left scrambling, and it called on Drake. The teams played annually from 1900 to 1965, but they hadn’t played since 1985. Everyone expected a blowout. The oddsmakers had Iowa State by 42 points. But Drake showed up to play, not just to cash in, and the Bulldogs led late in the third quarter. Iowa State came back to win, 27 to 24, but Drake went home with its pride.

And with $300,000.

THERE HAS BEEN another wave of buyouts at the Des Moines Register — prompted by a warning that there would be layoffs if people didn’t sign up. The list includes folks with a lot of institutional knowledge.

Among those leaving is Kathy Bolten, who joined the paper as a part-timer in 1978 and signed on full-time in 1980. She has been an editor and reporter and currently covers education. Political reporter Bill Petroski also is leaving. Patt Johnson, who covers the openings and closings of stores and seems to have a byline or two every day, is going, along with writer Mike Kilen, photographer Rodney White and sports reporter John Naughton. Earlier, CITYVIEW noted that artist Mark Marturello also is leaving.

“I’ve been blessed to be able to do good journalism in my hometown, meet an array of Iowans, shine a bright light on issues that needed addressed, and work with some really great people,” Bolten says. “I’ll miss it, but I hear there is life after The Register!”

Petroski, 67, joined the paper in 1981. “I’ll genuinely miss the place,” he said, and despite the cutbacks of recent years he says he still tells “young people this is a great place to come and work and have fun while you are learning a lot about journalism.” He notes that two of his former colleagues now cover the White House — Jeff Zeleny for CNN and Jennifer Jacobs for Bloomberg News.

But the buyouts will be felt by editors and readers. The list includes “lots of fine people who make the place run,” says one Register old-timer. “This one is painful.”

THE NYEMASTER LAW FIRM, which recently took over the job of defending the state against the bias and defamation claims of former Workers Compensation director Chris Godfrey, has submitted its first bill to the state: $196,397.36. That’s on top of the $1 million the state had paid the LaMarca firm, which recently resigned from the seven-year-old case when lawyer George LaMarca decided to retire. The case has yet to go to trial.

WHILE MILLIONS and millions of dollars were spent on the gubernatorial election, with at least one statehouse seat — Democrat Kristin Sunde’s ouster of Pete Cownie — costing more than $1.2 million, State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald was elected to a ninth term by spending less than $50,000. He beat Republican Jeremy Davis with 55% of the vote.

Attorney General Tom Miller spent a bit less than $200,000 in getting elected to a 10th term. The Republicans didn’t even field a candidate, and Miller beat Libertarian Marco Battaglia with 76% of the vote.