Purdue University President Mitch Daniels says he "bent over triple-backwards" to avoid the appearance of favoritism in the school's agreement to let his daughter's company showcase its tiny homes during tailgating on football weekends at the West Lafayette campus.
Purdue Research Foundation signed a contract this year with Daniels' daughter, Maggie Daniels, allowing her Try It Tiny company to rent out up to eight 200-square-foot homes as a tailgate village near Ross-Ade Stadium.
Mitch Daniels said he and the university have done everything they could to ensure that the deal was transparent, the Journal and Courier reported. He said he left the room before the foundation board's vote in February to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.
"This thing would have happened a year ago—that's when our people brought it in," Daniels said. "And I vetoed it, just so I wouldn't have to answer any groundless and insulting questions and conclusions people could lead to. I said, 'Go out and find someone else.' They spent months trying to find somebody else. They couldn't."
Maggie Daniels, who established Try It Tiny in 2016, said she had done some experimental runs with one of the tiny homes during the 2017 and 2018 Purdue football seasons. She said the school's research foundation had the foresight to make sure the process was independently handled.
"Ultimately, we were able to get the project put together on merit, which is what we both would have wanted to happen, anyhow," she said.
Amy Noah, Purdue's vice president for development, said concepts for what she dubbed "a donor experience" that targeted younger alumni during football weekends had been in discussions for several years.
Noah's office sought interest from five businesses, but only Try It Tiny responded to them, according to the foundation's memo.
Purdue will use the tiny homes from Sept. 7 to Nov. 2.