A close look at Jamie Pollard’s record at Iowa State

A big payday for Vilsack. Is Marty Tirrell job-hunting?

Civic Skinny


Iowa State University the other day gave a rich new contract to Athletic Director Jamie Pollard. The press release noted “Pollard and his team of coaches and staff have reshaped nearly every aspect of the athletics department of the last 11 years.”

Under Pollard, the athletic department “raised its competitive performance significantly,…excelled in the classroom,…built or renovated facilities,…eliminated dependence on state funding,…tripled annual fundraising…[and] established new attendance records in nearly every sport.”

A guy who thinks press releases don’t always tell the whole story sent CITYVIEW a note pointing out “other facts not in an ISU press release” about milestones under Pollard’s 11-year reign.

ISU lost twice as many football games as it won, with only two winning seasons.

Iowa State employed four head football coaches (a tally of the cash payouts on this would be even more telling).

The Cyclones have had four head men’s basketball coaches since Pollard took over.

Athletic department events led to high profile lawsuits by Ruth Crowe, Bubu Palo, and Nikki Moody, and the university lost the first two and the third remains pending.

ISU was guilty of a string of NCAA rule violations, including making 1,484 impermissible phone calls to recruits, and in 2013 entered an agreement admitting the department committed “major violations” of NCAA rules.

Those rule violations involved more than 33 coaches and every athletic program, dating back to spring of 2011.

At that time, the NCAA identified 79 violations for which it indicated it would discipline Iowa State.

ISU had another 13 minor NCAA violations in the first half of 2016

Pollard was personally fined $25,000 by the Big 12, the largest such fine imposed to that date by the league, and received a public reprimand by Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, who said, “To imply that games are called unfairly to negatively impact a program is irresponsible and completely baseless.” [Aside: “Jamie has led this success with integrity, doing things the right way — the Cyclone Way,” ISU President Steve Leath said in announcing the new contract.]

ISU has failed to take court storming seriously, leading to a beloved reporter’s severe injury with substantial pain and suffering.

ISU “also failed to retain wrestling legend Cael Sanderson as head coach. Since he bolted to Penn State from his alma mater, the once-dominant wrestling program has failed to finish in the top 10 at the NCAA nationals every year but one, has instead averaged a 14th-place national finish, has not won a Big 12 team title, and holds a 12-meet losing streak to intrastate rival Iowa in duals.”

And in 2013, Pollard was ejected from a high-school basketball game between Gilbert and Colfax-Mingo after complaining about a referee’s call. Pollard’s son was on the Gilbert team.

Furthermore, according to NCAA figures, Iowa State doesn’t have — as it claims — the highest graduation rate for athletes in the Big 12. Baylor does better.

“A guy who gets rewarded for all that must really have his bosses buffaloed, to the tune of more than $6 million,” the note said.

Well, maybe there were other factors. The contract, signed by Leath, was released shortly after it was discovered that Leath used the athletic department as a backdoor into the ISU Foundation so he could get $4 million to purchase an airplane without having to first go to the Board of Regents for funding and approval.

Whatever the reason, Pollard was given a very nice deal. He will be paid $689,325 a year, with annual increases taking him to $825,000 in the 2023-2024 academic year. He’ll also get deferred compensation of $153,000 this year, with the annual amount rising to $278,000 in the final year of the deal.

He also gets a car, country-club dues and the usual retirement benefits — and those include an annual contribution of 10 percent of his salary to his pension fund. …

THE IOWA BOARD OF REGENTS the other day met to evaluate the performance of Leath as well as of University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld, Board office head Bob Donley, and Steve Gettel, head of the state’s special schools. All four asked that the evaluations be done in closed session, and the Board agreed.

Under the Iowa open-meetings law, closed sessions for personnel evaluations can be held only “when necessary to prevent needless and irreparable injury to that individual’s reputation and that individual requests a closed session.” …

TOM VILSACK DIDN'T GET REALLY RICH in his eight years as Governor of Iowa or the just-completed eight years as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. But he’s about to. Vilsack has signed on as chief executive of the U.S. Dairy Export Council. Vilsack’s salary isn’t public, but Thomas Suber, the man he is succeeding, earned $875,203 in 2014, the latest year for which the organization’s tax return is available.

The new job doesn’t preclude him from serving on corporate boards, which could bring in additional money. He’ll have offices in Des Moines and suburban Washington.

The Governor and his wife also will teach a few days a month at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, allowing them to spend some time with their son Doug and his family in Denver. The Vilsacks’ other son, Jess, practices law in Des Moines.

The Export Council has a budget of about $24 million a year, which Vilsack should be able to deal with. His budget at the Department of Agriculture was $140 billion. Billion, with a b.

Vilsack was paid $199,700 a year as Secretary of Agriculture. …

MATT MCDERMOTT, a lawyer at the Belin firm who was just named president of the firm, appears to be the leading candidate to become U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa. Other names in the mix include Brenna Bird, the county attorney in Fremont County and onetime lawyer to Gov. Terry Branstad, and Alan Ostergren, the county attorney in Muscatine, Brad Price, an assistant U.S. attorney, and Dan Huitink of Vermeer Corp. in Pella.

Chris Hagenow‘s name also has been mentioned. …

GEORGE LAMARCA'S bills are creeping toward $1 million in his efforts to defend the state and some of its officers against the defamation, extortion, retaliation and discrimination charges brought by Chris Godfrey, the former head of the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Board. LaMarca sent the state an invoice for $2,778 the other day, raising the total — by CITYVIEW’s count — to $913,137.95.

Godfrey’s suit alleges Republican Gov. Terry Branstad and others tried to fire him, and, when that didn’t work, they cut his pay. Godfrey was a Democrat with a fixed term that still had 46 months to run. He also was the only openly gay member of the Branstad administration. The suit has yet to come to trial in Polk County District Court — lawyers are awaiting a clarification ruling from the Iowa Supreme Court — and the bills will jump when depositions and discovery ramp up.

If Godfrey wins, the taxpayers could end up on the hook for $3 million or so in fees to the LaMarca firm and to Godfrey’s lawyer, Roxanne Conlin. In effect, the suit is about $150,000 — the additional money Godfrey would have been paid over the 46 months.