OPS athletic discussion delayed

By Eric Krol

A cost-cutting committee’s discussion of how to wean athletics off of student tuition money was delayed because of time constraints Monday.

The 14-member committee on Organization, Productivity and Salaries (OPS) met to continue exploring reallocation methods to come up with $3 million for a 4.25 percent salary increase.

NIU Athletic Director Gerald O’Dell spoke before OPS to inform the committee of his department’s current financial relationship to the university.

O’Dell spent most of the hour allotted for his presentation giving background on the NIU athletic program and fielding questions from several of the committee members.

However, this left little time to discuss the specifics of how the athletic department will decrease dependence on tuition money.

NIU President John La Tourette, who organized the committee, identified athletics as one area of savings during the first OPS meeting last month.

Last fall, The Northern Star reported that 83 percent of the $4.2 million athletic budget comes from student pockets.

O’Dell showed the committee how far the athletic department has progressed under his guidance over the past few years.

O’Dell said the athletic department moved quickly to set high ethical standards, support women’s sports and come up with a long-range plan when he first took over. The plan included generating more outside income, enforcing affirmative action laws, enhancing graduation rates and securing better facilities.

O’Dell said the athletic department was $200,000 in the red when he took over. The deficit has been erased and outside funding to the athletic program has increased tremendously, he added.

He cited two measures the department has taken to improve funding. The Wheel Club was established to provide coaches with complimentary cars from local dealers during their tenure at NIU. O’Dell also showed two graphs which detailed increasing donor numbers and dollars for the NIU sports program.

As a result of the impending cuts from tuition money, O’Dell said future needs of the athletic department included funds for summer school sessions. “As we all know,” he said, “it takes longer than four years for the average student to graduate.”

However, time constraints of the two-hour meeting did not allow examination of data on tuition money going to the athletic program. O’Dell will be brought back for further questioning at the April 3 OPS meeting.

NIU Provost Kendall Baker addressed OPS for the first hour of the meeting. Baker gave an update on his Academic Resources Advisory Committee, which will look at ways to reallocate funds within the Academic Affairs division.