Pres. clears air on athletic study

By Tom Omiatek

NIU President John LaTourette addressed the Athletic Board Wednesday at a special meeting regarding the start of a study to define the university’s athletic direction.

The meeting was held to explain to the Athletic Board the objectives of the self-study committee and to stop the speculations and rumors regarding the study, LaTourette said.

“I want to emphasize that this is similar to a program review in an academic area … a self study that would address about eight areas of concern, moving from defining the mission of the (athletic) department, its objectives and long term goals— looking at its organization, its personnel, facilities and a whole host of issues that relate to the operation and overall effectiveness of an intercollegiate program,” he said.

LaTourette said the steps of the self-study will begin with the review of the program by the internal committee. An external committee would then make a final review and report to him with recommendations for action. He said he hopes this process will be completed by the end of the fiscal year in June.

“I want all information to be advisory to me, but I will bring any recommendations of action to the Athletic Board,” he said.

The President said the external committee would consist of a president of a Division I-A institution, perhaps two athletic directors, an NCAA representative, and a Commissioner of a major conference such as the Big Eight or Big 10.

“What we would really like to accomplish out of this is that our goals are clearly understood by those outside of the department, across the campus and by the public,” LaTourette said.

e said, “I want this process to go forward in a productive, effective manner so that at the end of the process we can say ‘we know where we are and where we are going.'” He said he will leave the format of the meetings up to the committee.

James Mellard, newly-assigned chairman of the internal self-study committee, said it was important that the committee do “a clean job and do it in a hurry. We don’t have much time. I will have to ask the committee to meet often and work hard, for about a month, to get the work done,” he said.

The committee will look at the goals and the quality of the athletic board. It also will look at the leadership, fiscal and financial aspects and the future of the program, said Mellard.

Joseph Grush, associate professor of psychology, said “I would like to applaud the president and others involved in this decision. It is the university displaying its willingness to conduct internal review and, more importantly, an external review.”

Mellard said he would not be interested in an open forum. Input from athletes and Athletic Board members will be accepted “through written comment,” Mellard said. “If it’s important enough for guidance, it’s important enough to put it in writing.”

Wednesday the committee held its first meeting, which was closed to the public. The meeting was to set up times and dates of future meetings, Mellard said.