President maintains final say

By Joe Bush

NIU’s University Council Wednesday rejected a bid by the Huskie Athletic Board to mandate, in NIU bylaws, board membership on athletic personnel search committees.

The bid was one resolution in a package which included no firing of any head coach without the approval of a majority of voting board members. The UC’s action, recommended by its Committee B, finalized the board’s response to last spring’s alleged mishandling of the firing of former men’s basketball coach Jim Rosborough. Rosborough was let go after three years.

Board member Gary Glenn told the UC the board felt it could not carry out its responsibility to ethics and sportsmanship if commitments made to coaching candidates were not honored.

Glenn said Rosborough and the other candidates were told a new coach would be given four years to turn the ailing program around, although Board of Regents policy allows only one-year contracts.

NIU President John La Tourette said there was no documentation of such an offer, which Glenn said is precisely why the board wants mandated membership on any search committees. Glenn said such a presence will ensure “institutional memory,”—remembering what is said or offered—which in turn will ensure “institutional integrity.”

“We (the board) were perplexed at the firing because we thought we understood that the commitment was made,” Glenn said.

“When a coach asks, ‘How long do I have?’ he is also asking the question ‘How should I conduct myself?’,” Glenn said. “‘Should I coach according to the rules or by any means necessary?'”

Glenn said Rosborough’s firing had implications for the future. “The message (to future candidates) would be, ‘They’re (the administration) going to tell you anything, but what they mean is produce,'” Glenn said.

Both La Tourette and William Monat, chairman of Committee B, said representation is up to the board and the athletic director because they design the search committees. Monat said the committee’s main objection to the resolutions is in setting a precedent by singling out an organization for bylaw change.

Committee B member Leonard Strickman said though he was not happy with the Rosborough firing, athletic board control over personnel decisions would have been “a bad personnel practice.” Currently, final personnel selections are La Tourette’s responsibility.

“Perhaps, though on one hand an athletic department does not lend to a university’s reputation, it can destroy that reputation in a matter of minutes,” La Tourette said.

Glenn conceded later that he did not expect the resolutions to be approved but was making a statement.

“The very least the administration should learn from this experience is that it must make clearer what its commitments to its (coaching) candidates are,” Strickman said.