INDIANAPOLIS | Purdue University is preparing to name a new president, but neither the university nor Gov. Mitch Daniels' office would confirm reports Tuesday that the Indiana governor will be the institution's next leader.
WISH-TV and The Indianapolis Star, both citing anonymous sources, reported that Purdue's board of trustees would vote Thursday to name Daniels to succeed France Cordova as president of the state's second-largest university. Cordova will retire next month after five years at Purdue's helm.
Purdue officials confirmed the trustees would introduce the new president after their meeting, but spokesman Chris Sigurdson declined to identify any candidates for the job.
"Until they (the board) put a name on the table at that meeting, there is no candidate," Sigurdson said.
Board chairman Keith Krach dismissed any reports about Daniels on Tuesday as "speculation," and Daniels spokeswoman Jane Jankowski declined comment.
Daniels will step down as governor in January after eight years in office. State law bars him from seeking a third term.
If selected, he would become the 12th president of Purdue, which has about 75,000 students on its West Lafayette and regional campuses.
The 63-year-old Daniels would not be subject to a rule that requires most Purdue administrators to retire at age 65. Trustees vice chairman Thomas Spurgeon said Tuesday that under university policy, newly hired people can stay in their post until they can build a $44,000 annuity. He said that typically takes seven to eight years.
There is little question Daniels has support among the 10-member board of trustees: He appointed eight of them, including three he re-appointed Tuesday.
Daniels, who received a bachelor's degree from Princeton University in 1971 and a law degree from Georgetown University in 1979, would become the first president of Purdue without extensive experience administering higher education. But he's no stranger to new endeavors: He had never sought elective office before his first gubernatorial run eight years ago.
His other former jobs include White House budget director, president of Eli Lilly and Co.'s North American Pharmaceutical Operations, chief executive officer of the Hudson Institute conservative think tank, chief of staff to Sen. Dick Lugar and a senior adviser to President Ronald Reagan.
Daniels declined last year to seek the Republican presidential nomination, citing family considerations, but has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential running mate to presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
Though an appointment to Purdue likely would end that talk, Indianapolis Republican strategist Mike Murphy said it could give Daniels a strong launch pad should he seek office again later.
"It provides Mitch with a great national platform, a la Woodrow Wilson at Princeton," he said.
Indiana Democrats, who have spent the last eight years scrapping with Daniels, said his appointment would cloud the perception of Purdue as a nonpartisan institution.
State Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said the university's decisions under his tenure would be viewed through the "kaleidoscope" of Republican interests.
However, Dennis Barden, senior vice president with Illinois-based executive search firm Witt/Kiefer, said Daniels clearly would meet the needs of the job as a university president, which is increasingly dominated by fundraising and external relations.
"Purdue is just taking what I would think is an enormously giant leap in terms of working with the Legislature," said Barden, who once ran Witt/Kiefer's higher education practice.
Associated Press reporter Tom Davies contributed to this report.