Lickliter Era of Iowa Basketball Coming to a Close?

B.Senior Analyst IMarch 12, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - MARCH 11:  Head coach Todd Lickliter of the Iowa Hawkeyes watches action during the game against the Michigan Wolverines in the first round of the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on March 11, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Iowa's basketball season may have ended, but the rumors surrounding the program have just started heating up.

While most Big Ten fans watched tournament games, Iowa Hawkeye fans had their attention focused on their social media streams, waiting for any information about the future of head coach Todd Lickliter .

A murmur began to pick up steam on message boards earlier in the week, when normally supportive people behind the program began speaking their less than flattering opinions in public. That murmur grew louder, as hints of meetings between athletic director Gary Barta and Iowa players began to surface.

Then, just as Iowa's Big Ten tournament game against Michigan tipped off, KCJJ , a radio station out of Iowa City, IA, posted a message to their Facebook page claiming to have sources that said Coach Lickliter will step down following the season over concerns about his health. 

Earlier in the season, Lickliter was hospitalized for several hours on Thanksgiving due to severe migraines. Later, the University of Iowa Hospitals diagnosed Lickliter with the beginning of a tear in his carotid artery.

The internal carotid artery is a major artery in the head and neck that helps supply blood to the brain. Tears are thought to be caused by extreme stress, and have been known to lead to strokes in middle-aged men.

Lickliter has four years remaining on this contract, but the idea of him stepping down to focus on his health isn't all that far fetched due to his recent health issues. 

The radio station suggests otherwise.

KCJJ claims to have sources saying the real reason for Lickliter's possible early departure might be two more threatened player defections.

During his three years at Iowa, Lickliter has had 10 player defections. The latest, guard Anthony Tucker, opted to transfer to Division II Winona State at the end of the semester after legal issues.

A high attrition rate does nothing to help a program in the midst of rebuilding itself.

Message boards, like Hawkeye Lounge and Hawkeye Nation, have been chattering about the possibility of more transfers for awhile. All indications point to another player transfer being the breaking point for most people.

At halftime of the game against Michigan, Phil Haddy, Iowa' Sports Information Director, called the KCJJ report inaccurate. He was careful with his words, though.

"Absolutely no decisions regarding the basketball program have been made," Haddy said. "Nothing has been done, and nothing will be done within the foreseeable future. What I am saying, everything you are reading on the Internet sites is inaccurate."

By reading between the lines, it's clear something's afoot. A released statement from Iowa's athletic director after Iowa's loss to Michigan did not offer any clarity to the matter, either.

"It's been a tough season, but the future is very bright with this group," Barta said in the statement. "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."

Lickliter was visibly agitated after the game when Gary Dolphin, the radio commentator for the Hawkeyes, asked him about sitting down with Barta at the end of the season.  His agitation carried over to his post game press conference, where he was asked about the rumors floating around.

"I haven't been told I'm not [the coach]," he stated. "So until I'm told I'm not, I am."

Statistically, Lickliter's three-year stretch as head coach at Iowa has been the worst three years in the history of the program. 

Iowa's 22 losses on the year is the most ever in a season. They lost 10 of their last 12 games, including a 27-point loss to Wisconsin and a 35-point loss at Minnesota. Both losses were the worst in the history of those two rivalries.

Attendance at home games has dropped off drastically. Actual attendance hovers around 5,000, one-third of the capacity seating at Carver-Hawkeye Arena .

If Lickliter doesn't step down on his own, it would cost the school $2.4 million to buyout his contract. With attendance down, a buyout might be difficult.

As of now, Todd Lickliter is still the head coach for Iowa men's basketball .  No press conferences are scheduled and no other announcements have been made.

Don't expect the rumors to die down anytime soon, though.