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A Thorough Investigation From A Forensic Accountant (Me) About Why The Iowa Athletic Department Hates Illinois Students

Author's note - Reags dropped this while I was driving to Scottsdale. It's a professional obligation to follow up in full detail.

TLDR: Iowa made a stupid mistake then drastically overcorrected, then acted high and mighty over Illinois students, all over basketball tickets. 

Hello. My name is Michael Carl Sterk and I’m a retired forensic accountant. It was in those early days of crunching numbers Barstool Carl came to life. A long told story of greater length and mostly irrelevant other than the part where I am a born and bred forensic to operate across the 5 pillars: investigations, loss prevention, regulatory enforcement, post acquisition dispute resolution and the lame-yet-utterly-profitable monitoring engagements. 

And yeah I'm aware that’s a little dramatic. But that was a real job I worked during a real part of my life for several years. It is within this depth of experience that I now call upon to uncover the truth behind the Iowa Athletic Department vs. Illinois Student Section feud that has dominated my circles this week. 

A heavy story indeed and certainly one I wasn’t fond of confronting moments (And I mean moments) after concluding the great Pepper Trail of 2023. Just a cool 35 hours of road tripping through the continental divide with an inline v4 that was begging for mercy in Oklahoma much less through the Ponto Forest. Challenging no doubt but nothing in comparison to the problem posed this week heading into what promises to be an ELECTRIC saturday afternoon showdown in Iowa City. 

It’s actually a juicy fuckin story here fellas. And I know you guys know me as an obnoxious Illinois homer and that’s very much true. I wore the colors. I have tremendous respect for the leaders in place. It’s every bit of a personal tie that you can have to your college sports teams. And even more so, it’s been my favorite outlet in all the years of making internet content. If I ever had to rally bannermen, the first stop I’m making is Champaign/Urbana. I need to make these concessions up front. Same as I would any engagement with major conflict of interest. 

The difference here though is the SEC isn’t asking me to disclose how much stock I own in Illinois. Instead I can just promise to be objective and that’s exactly what I’ll do. Otherwise it’s just a waste of time. I can sit here and shit on Iowa very easily and save myself the time and trouble. But there’s actually good meat on this bone worthy of professional skepticism so let’s do just that. 

The conflict started for many with news of a lengthy letter from the Orange Krush about having tickets revoked from the Iowa Athletic Department. This is the first public punch thrown in the dispute: 

Heavy stuff with some big time emotions here. Sixth year seniors traveling for their big trip. History and tradition of the Krush. Raising money for charity and willing to work with the Iowa athletic department. Thanking donors and committing to move forward. Some good sharp jabs at Iowa but nothing to say they’re overreacting. This is a big deal for a lot of Orange Krush kids that commit to years of supporting Illinois athletics. 

If this were a proper investigation, somewhere in the report I’d talk about the culture of the Orange Krush in greater depth. It would looking something like this. 

Orange Krush, Generally

I’d use formal language to explain the history. But I’d focus more on the commitment students have to make to be apart of the Krush. You don’t just get to show up to basketball games and sit close and scream crazy shit. You actually have to commit to a formal group with student elected leaders. And you have to raise a minimum amout of money to stay in the group and you have to work your way up the food chain by going to a bunch of different athletic events. Not just basketball and football. They’re showing up to the volleyball games on Thursday night and Women’s basketball Sunday afternoon. They’re traveling with non revenue sports and committing support across the university, broadly.

It’s not a group of students that want to party and be assholes and take over bars on campus. They’re quite literally the nicest and kindest and most supportive students the school has to offer. They’re utterly insane about Illinois athletics and take a tremendous amount of pride in being apart of the Krush. For many, it’s their primary club/activity at the university. Like how some play a club sport or join a business fraternity or play with foam swords on the quad. The kids in the Krush have dedicated and committed a bulk of their free time to the organization. 

That’s the kind of context that makes the $6,000 here a lot more valuable. It makes the weight of the 6th year seniors a little more heavy and the surrounding circumstances certainly more juicy. 

But there’s also a couple tricks and hijinks behind the scenes that you need to acknowledge before flaming Iowa for shitting on these kids. 

Tricks of the Trade: Orange Krush

Notably - they buy tickets through a charity at group discount rates just like every other group that tries to buy tickets for a Big Ten sporting event. They don’t buy group tickets as Orange Krush. They’ll use a local charity, or something to that effect. This isn’t a criminal investigation so we’re not going through formal record. We’re fine just settling on the gist - It’s not the most transparent process but it’s harmless and effectively guarantees all the kids can sit together, usually at the very top of the stadium because they’re buying tickets as cheap as they can get them. 

To my knowledge that’s not against the law in any capacity we’ve come to understand college rivalries. And truthfully - not even a real rivalry. Basketball, maybe/kinda blooming. But there’s a couple other schools that occupy my mind more than Iowa and I believe most Illinois students would heartily agree. If anything, Iowa and Illinois likely has the most crossover of high school friends from the Chicago area. Certainly south of 290 but that’s just me and now we’re getting hyper local. 

Bigger point is that this isn’t malicious or diabolical or in the service of some heated controversy that’s ripe to explode into a bigger mess. It’s quite literally our nicest and most trusted group of students making a harmless yet intelligent move for a great trip to one of the country’s best campuses to cheer on the best team the school has to offer. 

Iowa Formally Responds On Twitter

Simple and effective. They address the purchase, explain the reasoning and don’t throw anything mean. I’d maybe argue the “falsely ordering tickets under the Non Profit” is a little strong for my taste. But they stand to make this decision if they feel it’s appropriate. That’s within their right. 

The consequences though fall to the public. And in this case, it looks like a bitch move. I wouldn’t say that in a formal report but I’d be tempted on how much of a bitch move it is. Can’t really think of other language to describe Iowa’s stance and action. 

In this case, bells should be going off in any decent investigator’s brain. There’s so much dissonance between the action and the consequence. Orange Krush gets fuckin slammed last second without any opportunity to make whole? You either have to be extremely malicious, utterly stupid, or some kind of combination that gets mixed at the worst time. 

My Results

I’ve spent the last couple days talking to a few insiders. Iowa and Illinois guys. Friends and foes and a handful in-between. I’m prepared to levy the following observations: 

- Gary Barta has a personal axe to grind against Illinois 

- Iowa mailed the tickets to a charity in Champaign, Illinois after the tickets were placed in the fall of 2022 

- The Orange Krush satisfied Iowa’s ticket policy at the time the order was placed 

- Iowa Athletic Department - by luck or intent or something in-between - only recently became interested in the Orange Krush’s plans for Saturday’s game. Some say rumors circulated. Some say the basketball program made mention about it. I’ve heard conflicting stories but the general consensus is that the department just recently took an interest in the Krush and then instantly reacted when searching for a purchase order that would align with the Orange Krush tendedncies

- Iowa Athletic Department was extremely difficult with a student run organization and not interested in any type of compromise that would prevent such negative impact to hundreds of students from a fellow conference school

- Generally, this could/should be a non-story very easily based on the precedent set by student organizations across the Big Ten. The burden ultimately falls to the leaders of the Athletic Department at Iowa to not be colossal dicks

My Opinion

As an Illinois fan and spiteful asshole by nature, I’d like to see the Illinois kids stick it to Iowa a little harder than a public campaign like this. It’s actually a huge opportunity to get mean and nasty and react savagely. But then I remember that it’s the Orange Krush kids. The nice ones that make tremendous employees and colleagues and effective members of society. They’re not out for blood but rather just a good time at an opponent’s campus on a Saturday afternoon. They want to cheer and chant and show Coach Underwood that he’s got dogs in his corner all day. 

Iowa could have easily found some middle ground here with the Illinois leadership. They don’t need to shit on students for falsely impersonating a Boys and Girls Club when they quite literally donate money to local charities like Boys and Girls Club every year in the thousands of dollars. It’s been going on for decades with the Orange Krush and it’s the embodiment of harmless college bullshit. And we’re sitting here talking about it and caring about it because Iowa AD Gary Barta has a huge dump in his pants. 

We’re supposed to be boys, Iowa. You’re the funny outrageous and social ones. We’re a little more dorky and serious and try our best to keep up. It’s so much better when Iowa and Illinois people work together because that’s when we’re at our best. I don’t want to be on twitter calling you guys a safety school and shitting on your student body. I want to be eating grilled cheese at Nick’s and talking about how Fran McCaffrey got ejected exactly two minutes before Brad Underwood in a double overtime thriller that we were all lucky to witness. Why can’t it be like that? 

Because all it takes is a couple of shitty people with bad attitudes to ruin it for everyone. There’s your big takeaway. Don’t be a Gary Barta if/when that day comes. Instead, be like my friends at KAMS: 

End of the day, the students are going to the game anyways. And now all this negative attention falls to the Orange Krush and Iowa Athletic Department at a time and in a manner that could have been entirely avoided but for that aforementioned load of shit in his pants that Gary won’t clean up. 

And with all this, we can now turn our attention to Saturday’s 1:30pm game on FOX. Illinois traveling to Iowa in what should be the most chaotic non-wrestling crowd Carver-Hawkeye’s hosted in years. And while we’re here, the value is on Brad Underwood and the Illini. He’s the exact kinda person to take this way too personal. 

Otherwise known as the perfect college basketball coach. 

For more on my affinity for Coach Underwood and his ability to beat Iowa, please enjoy this video: