Athletic director decision put on hold

By Jim Wozniak

Although he received the search committee’s recommendation Friday, NIU President John LaTourette has decided to evaluate the situation further and wait about a week to 10 days to pick a new athletic director.

LaTourette spent Sunday afternoon and night reviewing the three applicants’ files. He said he would talk with some of the candidates’ references and possibly visit candidates at their employment, where he will check on references and speak with their co-workers and bosses.

LaTourette made a similar trips in the spring when the university selected Kendall Baker as provost. He indicated the trips might begin as early as Tuesday.

“We did it pretty quickly with the provost search,” he said. “We went to three places in three days.”

LaTourette also might talk with with National Collegiate Athletic Association officials, the external review team that evaluated the athletic department this summer and conference commissioners.

The president declined to say whom the committee recommended.

“It’s sort of like one last check. I want to make sure we have someone who personally has confidence to run the program. I want to make sure the assessments we have received are accurate and see if we can gather any additional information.”

None of the three candidates—Minnesota Assistant Athletic Director Gerald O’Dell, Michigan Assistant AD Mike Palmisano and Russ Sloan, Fresno (Calif.) Chamber of Commerce executive director—said a possible visit from LaTourette would bother him. Only Sloan expressed a lack of desire to wait for a decision.

“I would have thought everyone would have wanted to finish this by now,” he said. “Personally, I guess it would be surprising if it (LaTourette’s work) went that long.”

Each candidate said he was happy with the on-campus visit, but Sloan was the only one who mentioned regret with not covering all the issues he would have liked. He said he would have liked to talk more about ways to improve the stadium situation. He said based on the university’s master plan, “it is obvious” NIU needs a multi-purpose stadium that can be used for students and athletics.

Sloan also said the university needs an easier-to-reach ticket office and more space for coaches in Chick Evans Field House. He said NIU possibly could convert some of the seats in the middle of the West stands in Huskie Stadium to chair seats and charge higher prices. Such a plan would help NIU generate money for stadium improvements and provide more revenue.

O’Dell, who talked on the phone and watched the seventh game of the World Series at the same time, said he has not talked to anyone at NIU since his visit. Palmisano said he talked with NIU Assistant AD Jim Braun Sunday about the football team’s 21-20 loss to Cal-State Fullerton. Sloan said he has talked with some people not connected with the search committee or with LaTourette.