Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta apologizes to family of Roy Marble
Barta says Iowa plans to honor Roy Marble, but won't retire his number
By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta apologized to the family of former Iowa basketball great Roy Marble for any disrespect they have felt with how Roy was treated by the athletic department.
Barta’s apology came less than 24 hours after Roy Marble’s son, former Iowa basketball player Devyn Marble, said on Twitter that he would never watch another Iowa game in his life with the amount of disrespect that his alma mater has shown his father. Devyn Marble said he loves the Iowa fans, but in no way is affiliated or connected to the university anymore.
Roy Marble passed away from cancer in 2015 at the age of just 48.
He was Iowa’s all-time leading scorer when he died, and held that distinction until Iowa senior center Luka Garza broke his record against Penn State this season.
It was announced after the regular-season finale against Wisconsin this past Sunday that Garza’s number 55 will be retired after the season.
Roy Marble’s number 23, on the other hand, hasn’t been retired, and Barta gave no indication that it will be retired while addressing the media on a zoom conference.
“I did learn, and we have learned since Sunday, that Roy Marble’s family was hurt and feeling disrespected since that day,” Barta said. “And I just wanted to take a moment and share that absolutely that disrespect was unintentional, and to publicly apologize for that.”
Barta said that he and Iowa coach Fran McCaffery both have reached out to members of the Marble family privately and shared those same feelings of apology, and also listened to them, and heard from them, and shared some of the things that UI officials are working on and planning for moving forward.
Barta’s main reason for speaking it seems was to apologize for any disrespect the Marble family has felt, and to explain what he meant in 2015 when he said shortly before Roy Marble passed away that jerseys and numbers would no longer be retired.
In addition to Garza’s number 55, former Iowa women’s basketball star Megan Gustafson had her number 10 retired in 2019.
Barta said when he became the Iowa Athletic Director in 2006 that there were three former men’s basketball players – Roy Marble, Murray Wier and Charles Darling – that many fans felt should have their number retired.
However, Barta said Tuesday that the three former players don’t meet the requirements.
“All three of those through our university process do not meet the criteria for those retirement requirements,” Barta said without being specific. “Now I go back to 2015 when we honored Roy while Devyn was here and we brought him out on the court and we honored him.
“And at that time, I shared a vision that we had, and that we continue to have, to create a display in Carver-Hawkeye Arena when we renovate the concourse to pay tribute to a lot of greats, including Roy and Murray and Chuck.”
Barta said there is currently a temporary display set up, but the concourse still hasn’t been renovated, and any plans to renovate have been put on hold due the financial shortfalls caused by the global pandemic.
“I can’t go back to 1948 or 1952, 1989, and discuss or talk about why those three individuals haven’t had that honor bestowed upon them,” Barta said. “It is complicated. It is a high bar for sure.
“But I can tell you, I am committed to this spring and summer, let’s get through the season, this spring and summer I’ll sit down with some of our former players, some of our long-time staff members, the historians who have been around here for a long time and really go through and discuss and finalize how we can honor those three. And then make sure there’s not somebody else that we’re leaving out.”
Fran McCaffery was hired to replaced Todd Lickliter as the Iowa coach in March 2010, and McCaffery convinced Devyn Marble, who was a high school senior at the time, to stick with his commitment to Iowa.
Devyn Marble would go on to become a first-team All-Big Ten performer under McCaffery and was instrumental in helping Iowa build during the early years under McCaffery.
“I haven’t spoken to him yet, but I reached out to him,” Fran McCaffery said on the zoom conference. “I know that Dev knows I love him and I loved his dad. We became very close.
“And I really appreciate Mr. Barta’s comments and sensitivity towards the situation. In no way were we highlighting Luka to any way disrespect anyone else, least of all, anyone named Marble.”
Devyn Marble hasn’t responded to an interview request.
He also was noticeably absent from the video tribute for Garza after last Sunday’s game in which multiple former Iowa players offered their congratulations.
But Fran McCaffery said Tuesday that his relationship with Devyn Marble still is strong.
“These situations are not something that I typically get involved with,” said Fran McCaffery. “But due to my relationship with both Roy an Dev, I did. I felt that it was important to do that. And our conversations have been very positive, and will remain so as we move forward to honor Roy the way that he should be.”
Fran McCaffery also recognized Roy Marble’s greatness and expressed confidence that Iowa will ultimately honor him appropriately.
Roy Marble finished is career in 1989 as Iowa’s all-time leading scorer with 2,116 points. He also played in the NCAA Tournament in each of his four seasons at Iowa, and helped lead the 1986-87 squad to a school-record 30 wins and to the NCAA Elite Eight.
“There are different circumstances for everybody, and different eras,” Fran McCaffery said. “And you look at Roy in particular, there’s only two players that ever played here who scored 2,000 points or more. He’s one of them. He was also on a team that won 30 games, which is the most that any team has won here.
“So I don’t think you have to stretch that far to understand what his performance and his accomplishments meant to our program and it’s history, particularly with having his son come here and having the spectacular career that he had.
“So I think Gary recognizes that, and he said as much. And I’m confident in his ability with the other folks he referenced to move forward and recognize Roy properly.”