O’Dell to propose field hockey cut

By Wes Swietek

The NIU Athletic Board meets today to hear the recommendation of Athletic Director Gerald O’Dell to cut the field hockey program.

0’Dell is expected to ask at the 1 p.m. meeting at the Holmes Student Center for the field hockey program’s replacement with women’s soccer.

Last Wednesday, O’Dell made the proposal known to the Executive Committee of the Athletic Board. The reasons for the change will be offered at this Wednesday’s meeting, with other viewpoints expected to be heard at a special meeting of the board on April 29.

A vote is not expected until the May 6 meeting of the board.

Supporters of the program, who said they plan to be on hand at all the board meetings, are continuing to explore their options.

They have brought up the possibility of filing legal action against the university for violating Title IX.

Title IX is the federal law mandating that institutions receiving federal funding distribute athletic opportunities and resources equitably among men and women.

O’Dell, however, said Title IX and NIU’s actions are unrelated.

“This recommendation is irrelevant to Title IX,” O’Dell said. “We just completed an exhaustive Title IX review of athletics and the response was extremely favorable. If other areas of this campus are in compliance, I don’t know.

“This is an issue of replacing one sport with another. If we’re not in compliance with Title IX, that’s a separate issue.”

Field hockey supporters have contacted Arthur Bryant, the executive director of Trial Lawyers for Public Justice in Washington, D.C.

Bryant, whose organization has been an active advocate for Title IX and has prevented other schools from dropping women’s programs, said he’s still looking into NIU’s case.

“As of now, we have not made a determination about filing a suit,” Bryant said. “Although we’re still looking into it.”

NIU Legal Counsel George Shur said NIU is on solid legal ground.

“I’m quite comfortable with our position,” said Shur, who also feels NIU’s decision is not related to Title IX.

“It’s unfair to use one issue as leverage against the other,” Shur said. “The issues need to be separated.”

“There will be more opportunities for women with women’s soccer,” O’Dell said. “This is not a slap at the fine young people or the coaches in the program. It’s a business decision.”