O’Dell’s side job ‘a dead issue’

By Wes Swietek

A controversy regarding NIU Athletic Director Gerald O’Dell’s outside consulting work is a dead issue, said most of its key players.

The Northern Star revealed in its Dec. 5th issue that O’Dell was linked in his consulting work at South Florida University to a company with ties to Raycom Management Group, a firm that has received over $27,000 in contracts from NIU.

The Chicago Tribune followed with a story headlined, “AD’s outside work questioned at NIU.” The principals named in the Tribune story say that the Tribune misrepresented their feelings and that, as far as they are concerned, no controversy exists.

“There will not be a state investigation,” said state Sen. Patrick Welch (D-Peru). “There’s nothing there. I don’t see that this is something the legislature should be involved in. We have more important things to do.”

NIU President John La Tourette said, “There is no story. It’s permissible for faculty and staff to do consulting. Mr. O’Dell reviewed this with me substantially and I saw no problem.”

O’Dell was doing consulting for South Florida regarding the starting of a football program. SF hired O’Dell through Sports Resources Group which is headed by William Carr, formerly a director at Raycom.

“There never was a conflict of interest. There never was a story,” O’Dell said. “The compensation was minimal. I would have done it without compensation.”

The parties agreed that any implications of wrongdoing or calls for an investigation are misleading.

“The (Tribune) put words in my mouth,” said Welch. “They’re making a mountain out of a molehill.”

Asked if the story was dead, La Tourette said, “There never was a live story to begin with. (O’Dell) met all the recommendations and guidelines.”

The NIU officials said that the past dealings with Raycom, a company that does athletics coach and executive searches, would not prevent NIU from using the company in the future just to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

“I would consider (using Raycom),” La Tourette said. “But I’d make sure there’s no conflict. Since these are professionals, I would need evidence that there is a conflict.”

“I would look at other companies if they are out there. We have great confidence in Bill Carr,” said O’Dell, who pointed to Carr’s recent work with Northwestern’s and Texas’ coaching searches as evidence of his respect in the field.