O’Dell wins athletic director bid

By Jim Wozniak

Minnesota University Assistant Athletic Director Gerald O’Dell has been picked by NIU President John LaTourette to be NIU’s permanent AD, three sources said Wednesday.

O’Dell’s hiring will be announced formally at a press conference today at 1:30 p.m. in the University Suite of the Holmes Student Center.

Russ Sloan, one of the three final candidates, said a friend from NIU told him he was out of the running and O’Dell had been given the job. He said he received no official word from the search committee about his status. Sloan is executive director of the Fresno (Calif.) Chamber of Commerce.

An NIU athletic department source also said O’Dell was the president’s choice. The source said the search committee recommended O’Dell to LaTourette, who is a friend of Sloan’s. The source indicated the president met with O’Dell earlier this week.

LaTourette’s secretary, Anne Groves, said the president was in DeKalb early Monday before leaving town for the majority of Monday and all day Tuesday.

Minnesota Associate AD Holger Christiansen said O’Dell told him earlier this week he had been offered the job. Christiansen said he understands O’Dell will stay at Minnesota until Jan. 1 because he still has some matters to finish there.

“All we know is he’s going down there (NIU) for an announcement,” Christiansen said. “I was disappointed because I hate to see him leave. He’s not obligated at all (to stay until January), but that’s something I think Gerald has decided to do.”

LaTourette declined to comment about the situation Wednesday because he said he would be charged with showing favoritism if he talked to any one newspaper. He also declined to comment about his reported visit with O’Dell, saying only that he was out of town.

Several attempts to contact O’Dell Wednesday at his office and at home were unsuccessful. Two secretaries said he still worked for Minnesota, and one of them said he was at a meeting.

O’Dell said Tuesday he understood the situation would be resolved within the week and said he had been in contact with the search committee, but he would not reveal what the conversation entailed.

As he had said Tuesday night, University of Michigan Assistant AD Mike Palmisano, another finalist, said Wednesday he had not received any word from NIU about the situation.

“You (The Northern Star) are the only one that’s kept me up-to-date,” he said. “Common courtesy should be that you get a thank you (for applying).”

O’Dell will replace interim AD Jim Mellard, who LaTourette appointed in July to head NIU athletics until a permanent director could be found. O’Dell will head men’s and women’s athletics, a move LaTourette implemented with Mellard’s appointment.

Having one AD was suggested by the internal and external reviews of the athletic department. Those reviews occurred between January and June of this year.

O’Dell has been in charge of promotions and marketing at Minnesota since 1984. Prior to that, he spent two years as an assistant football coach for Minnesota. He also coached football at Iowa State University, the University of Oklahoma, Mississippi State University and Broken Arrow High School in Oklahoma.

O’Dell earned a bachelor’s degree from Southeastern Oklahoma State and a master’s from Oklahoma.