New track boss? Here's your woman.
Now the federation's volunteer leadership faces additional pressure from the U.S. Olympic Committee to shrink its number of board members from about six million to the more workable number of, say, nine, just as the USOC did to its management structure four years ago.
I can save USATF a lot of time on the CEO issue. (I have a track record on this sort of thing. Two months ago in "Globetrotting: A worldly view of sports" I advised U.S. Figure Skating to stop spending time and money on site searches for its 2010 national championship host city and award the thing to Spokane -- which they did.)
So this is my advice to USA Track and Field:
I'm not sure Mary wants the job. The Road Runners are a bigger organization with a bigger budget than USATF. She may not want to leave New York City for Indianapolis (but she has a small-city roots in Buffalo).
I listened to Mary give what she insisted was not a campaign speech (even though it could have been) over lunch last week during the Olympic track and field trials. I walked away thinking USATF would be ever so lucky if it could figure out a way to lure her. (No reason, with modern communications, she couldn't do the job essentially from New York.)
Mary talked about trying to make the sport a cohesive whole rather than a series of fragmented parts. She comes from the part, road running, with the demographic that sponsors crave (middle-aged folks with money). But she is just as excited about finding a way to capitalize on the part of the sport, high school track and field, that keeps attracting high numbers of participants.
During the track and field Olympic trials in Eugene, where a runners' high also applied to the crowds, it was easy to get carried away by the sport's potential, and Mary did just that when she spoke of track becoming a national pastime. That sort of projection is exactly what helped make soccer's leaders look silly for years -- and provided an easy punch line for Neanderthal sports writers who still make jokes about soccer, even though the sport clearly has established a solid niche on the U.S. scene.
(ABC got a 3.1 rating for its Sunday midday telecast of the European Championship final; few college basketball or college football or baseball games do that well.)
I'll forgive Mary for that excess, since she is a passionate runner who spoke from her heart. She is also a Notre Dame-trained attorney, an Olympic trials marathon qualifier and one-time coxswain of the men's crew at Canisius College.
On top of that, the U.S. Olympic movement is shamefully lacking in women and minorities at the top of its federations. Only two of the 39 U.S. governing bodies in Olympic sports, diving and fencing, have female chief executives.
So, USA Track & Field, your search is over.
Photo: Fans jammed Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. for the recent track and field Olympic trials that featured such athletes as long jumper Miguel Pate. Credit: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Photo: Mary Wittenberg, chief executive officer of the ING NYC Marathon and the New York Road Runners. Credit: New York Road Runners