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Category: USOC

Sen. Hatch on USOC's side? What a joke

Hatch_250 I had to laugh when the U.S. OIympic Committee proudly announced Thursday it has Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) on its side in the battle to stop what USOC calls "ambush marketing" by Subway and some other companies.

It made me feel the same way I did when Donald Fehr, a steroid stonewaller as head of the Major League Baseball Players Association, was part of the Congress-appointed committee to reform the USOC in 2003.

Or the way I felt after I learned that the Governator, former steroid user Arnold Schwarzenegger, was carrying the Olympic torch in Vancouver on Friday.

Sen. Hatch long has fought U.S. Food and Drug Administration monitoring of the dietary supplement companies that have found his state a safe haven. There are more than 100 such manufacturers in Utah, making them one of the state's top five industries.

These are some of the companies whose unregulated supplements can contain unlabeled banned substances that often turn into positive drug tests for Olympic athletes.

Because the companies don't have to label accurately every ingredient in the supplements, anything goes.

Stick an unidentified steroid into a supplement, watch people rave about how strong they feel, see sales boom.

Continue reading »

Lengthy deal, less money for new USOC boss sends right message to IOC

Scott

Scott Blackmun met Jacques Rogge in 2001, when Blackmun was the acting chief executive of the U.S. Olympic Committee, and the International Olympic Committee president was touring the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

That encounter was so brief that the next meeting between the two, which should take place at the Vancouver Olympics, will essentially be the chance for Blackmun to introduce himself to Rogge  --  especially now that Blackmun's USOC title is permanent CEO.

That meeting must set the tone for the USOC to improve its fractious relations with the IOC. As the old saw goes, you get only one chance to make a first impression.

It is just as critical that not only the impression Blackmun leaves but also the relationship he creates with the IOC is lasting. IOC members and USOC officials cited the constant turnover in USOC leadership as a factor in the humiliating defeats for New York (2012) and Chicago (2016) in their Olympic bids. It's a case of not being able to build trust with people you barely know.

So it is important that Blackmun has been given a four-year contract as he starts his second tenure with the USOC on Jan. 26. That means he will be CEO not only for the final 3 1/2 years of Rogge's second (and final) term as IOC president but for at least the beginning of the next IOC president's tenure.

Blackmun, 52, also could be inclined to meet one of the parameters USOC chairman Larry Probst set in the job description: a person who would like to stay in the job 10 years or more.  The father of three (one a sophomore at DePaul) left a top job with Anschutz Entertainment Group in Los Angeles to return to Colorado Springs as an attorney partly because he really likes living there.   

The IOC already is pleased the USOC has given its top staff position to an Olympic movement veteran after having put three clueless corporate veterans in the position during the past decade.

"Our relationship is a key one for the future of the Games, and having an experienced operator in the post is clearly to be welcomed,'' IOC communications director Mark Adams said in an e-mail.

The IOC may also like the idea that Blackmun's annual starting salary is $100,000 less than the $550,000 the USOC coughed up for Stephanie Streeter, who moved from the USOC board to CEO when the board ousted Jim Scherr last March. An IOC member told me after the 2016 vote that no one could understand how the USOC dared pay Streeter that kind of money -- 30% more than Scherr's base -- given her lack of Olympic-related experience and a global financial crisis that led the USOC to cut 13% of its staff in May.

"I'm not here primarily because of the compensation,'' Blackmun told me by telephone after a Wednesday press conference.  "I never made the comparison.''

(An aside: No matter what shortcomings Scherr had, he had brought six years of stability to a position turning over with every lunar cycle, and he had improved staff morale; the decision to dump him less than a month before the IOC 2016 bid evaluation commission visited Chicago was indefensible, only adding to the idea the USOC always would be a dysfunctional Team Turmoil.)

On the international relations front, there are three main issues:

*Building trust and relationships.

*Resolving the longstanding dispute over the percentages the USOC receives from the U.S. television rights fee and the IOC's global sponsorship revenues.

*Finding a way to create some form of U.S. Olympic network that does not antagonize either the IOC or NBC, which the IOC considers the Olympic network in the United States.

Underlying the last two are issues of revenue generation by making USOC sponsorship a better deal for companies that buy in.

"We can begin the international relations piece immediately, but we won't see results of that until we've earned our chops,''  Blackmun said.  "In terms of revenue, we have to look ahead and find added value for our sponsors.  We don't have traditional opportunities like (arena) signage.  A broadcast network would be one way to do that.''

Uncertainties related to the future of U.S. Olympic TV rights -- bidding has not begun for the Games after 2012 -- and the impact of Comcast's purchase of NBC should mean the USOC does not need to make a decision soon on the network.

"It's a complicated issue,'' Blackmun said.

Comcast is the USOC's partner in the U.S. Olympic Network, which may have already died aborning.  After announcing its planned launch in July, the USOC put its tail between its legs six weeks later and delayed it indefinitely in a vain attempt to appease the IOC, which was protecting NBC, which was angry the USOC did not enter into a partnership with Universal Sports, the NBC-owned network with programming content that features Olympic-related programming. (Got that?)

If NBC re-ups as an Olympic TV rights-holder as part of Comcast, it seems highly unlikely Comcast will want to be part of a competing U.S. Olympic Network.  Once again -- as it has always been -- a partnership with Universal Sports is the best network option for the USOC.

But when I asked Blackmun if that meant he could afford to be in no hurry to determine whether the U.S. Olympic Network would be launched, he disagreed.

"I wouldn't want to say there is no rush,'' Blackmun said.  "It is a priority for us to find added value for sponsors.''

It also is a priority for Blackmun to create an effective international relations department.  Bob Ctvrtlik, who was the USOC vice president for international relations, left that position soon after taking a paid job with Chicago 2016 last winter. Robert Fasulo, the international relations director, remains in his job.

The feeling within Chicago 2016 after its first-round exit in the IOC vote was that Ctvrtlik and Fasulo did a poor job of locking in commitments. It is likely that President Obama decided to go to Copenhagen to pitch Chicago in the final presentations to the IOC based in part on what apparently was rose-colored information about levels of support that was provided by Ctvrtlik, Fasulo and other international consultants working for the bid.

Blackmun said he would not comment on personnel matters and that staff issues were not one of his primary concerns.

"I don't come at this with a view to making changes,'' he said.  "I come at this with a view to be excellent.  Sometimes you need to make changes to be excellent, but if I listed the top 10 things we need to address, replacing staff would not be on my list.''

Blackmun is off to a vacation on the big island of Hawaii before taking over at the USOC. That would be among the top 10 things on anyone's to-do list.

-- Philip Hersh

Scott Blackmun at USOC headquarters Wednesday.  (AP / Ed Andrieski)


Scott Blackmun tapped to be next U.S. Olympic Committee chief executive

Scott Blackmun will be the new chief executive of the U.S. Olympic Committee, the Chicago Tribune learned today, with the USOC board choosing him over Chuck Wielgus, the chief executive of USA Swimming.

Fabforum "I think it's a good decision,'' said USOC board member Anita DeFrantz. "I am happy he [Blackmun] is taking over the reins.''

USOC Chairman Larry Probst is to introduce Blackmun, 52, to the staff Wednesday in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Many of the staff already know him. Blackmun, an attorney, served the USOC in a variety of positions from 1999 through 2002. He was acting CEO from November 2000 through October 2001.

Blackmun, a partner in the Colorado Springs law firm of Holme, Roberts & Owens, is expected to start as USOC boss later this month.

He replaces Stephanie Streeter, who became acting CEO when the board ousted Jim Scherr last March. Streeter, of Neenah, Wis., declined to be a candidate for the full-time job, USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said.

The Tribune reported earlier that the USOC search committee interviewed six finalists for the job in mid-December and decided last week to present Blackmun and Wielgus to the board of directors.

"[Blackmun] is certainly a savvy veteran of the Olympic movement, and I think he is going to be very well received,'' USA Track & Field chief executive Doug Logan said. "He has a proven track record at soothing roiled waters, and that skill set will come in handy in years to come.''

Blackmun became acting CEO during one of the USOC's frequent periods of turmoil, when CEO Norm Blake was forced to resign. There have been 13 changes in the CEO position in the last 14 years, with Blackmun among nine people to have served as acting or permanent boss.

Blackmun, a summa cum laude graduate of Dartmouth who got his law degree from Stanford, left the USOC after he was not chosen as the permanent CEO in 2001.

He went on to spend four years as chief operating officer of sports and entertainment giant AEG, for whom his tasks included the company's sponsorship of the Tour of California bicycle race.  He then returned to the Colorado Springs law firm where he had started his legal career in 1982.

-- Phillip Hersh

Photo: Scott Blackmun. Credit: AP.


The envelope, please: My athletes of year, decade

The year after a Summer Olympics is supposed to be a time when the stars of the previous Games catch their breath while the likely stars of the next Winter Games give the Olympic world some breathless anticipation.

So it was no surprise to see alpine skier Lindsey Vonn emerge as, so to speak, the Michael Phelps of the upcoming 2010 Winter Games, a woman clearly capable of winning four of her sport’s five events.

But we also saw Phelps being Phelps all over again, saving a sport whose brain-dead leadership allowed decades of history to be washed away by its failure to rein in technology.

And Usain Bolt becoming lightning-in-a-bottle for track and field’s leadership, a star of such dimensions he is keeping afloat a sport drowning in its recent doping history.

As they had been in 2008, Bolt and Phelps were the biggest winners of 2009 in the Olympic sports world.

The biggest loser? Chicago, its excellent bid for the 2016 Olympics shamed by a first-round elimination. For that, Chicago can thank the U.S. Olympic Committee’s dunderhead leadership, given the USOC’s determined efforts to create more internal turmoil and infuriate the International Olympic Committee.

Not that anyone was going to deny Rio de Janeiro its historic prize: becoming the first South American host of an Olympics.

That is why I am giving Brazil’s president one of the top prizes in these 23rd annual Tribune international sports awards, for people to whom an Olympic gold medal – or, in this case, an Olympic Games -- is the ultimate goal.

World Athletes of the Year

MEN GOLD – Usain Bolt, Jamaica, track and field. Last year, I couldn’t pick between Bolt and Michael Phelps, so they shared this award. In 2009, Bolt was not only in another class from any athlete in any sport but from any human being who has taken on the simplest of all athletic challenges: getting from here to there faster than the competition. With his second set of 100-200 world records at a major meet (Olympics 2008, worlds 2009), plus another sprint relay victory, Bolt is a runaway winner.

SILVER – Michael Phelps, United States, swimming. It isn’t just that Phelps won five more world championship gold medals, giving him an astounding 20 golds for the four worlds in which he has competed. It is his having defied the anything-goes suit insanity that rendered swim world records essentially meaningless: Phelps set world marks in the 100 and 200 butterfly without the all-polyurethane super suits.

BRONZE – Aksel Lund Svindal, Norway, alpine skiing. After missing a season because of a horrific late 2007 crash at Beaver Creek, Colo., Svindal returned to win the World Cup overall and Super-G titles and the world title in super combined in 2009.

WOMEN

GOLD – Lindsey Vonn, United States, alpine skiing. Imagine what Vonn might have done if she hadn’t slashed a thumb opening a Champagne bottle to celebrate her second gold medal (downhill, Super-G) at the 2009 worlds? As it was, she won 9 World Cup races, a second straight World Cup overall title, two World Cup discipline titles and utterly dominated her sport.

SILVER – Guo Jingjing, China, diving. The word had been that Guo, who turned 28 last October, would retire after the 2008 Olympics, where she won two more golds (after two in Athens). But there she was at the 2009 worlds, winning two titles (including an unprecedented fifth straight in a single event, 3-meter springboard), the ninth and 10th world titles of her career. Now she talks of competing at the 2012 London Games.

BRONZE – Federica Pellegrini, Italy, swimming. In a year when she posed nude for the cover of the Italian edition of Vanity Fair, then undressed the competition at the Rome worlds, it was hard to recall this 21-year-old once suffered from panic attacks about competition. She won the 200 and 400 freestyles at worlds to justify the gold paint covering her body in the magazine pictures.

U.S. Athletes of the Year

MEN

GOLD – Michael Phelps, swimming. (see above).

SILVER – Todd Lodwick, Nordic combined. After two frustrating Olympics, in which he had top 10 finishes in all six of his events but could not become the first U.S. athlete to win a Nordic combined medal, Lodwick retired in 2006, 11 years after making his World Cup debut. The father of two returned last season at age 33 to win not only the first world title of his exceptional career but a second one two days later.

BRONZE – Evan Lysacek, figure skating. Making 4½ minutes of jumping, spinning and footwork sequences look effortless, the 23-year-old became the first U.S. man to win the world title since Todd Eldredge in 1996.

WOMEN

GOLD – Lindsey Vonn (see above)

SILVER – Erin Hamlin, luge. Yes, she had home-track advantage in Lake Placid, but no woman from any country had won there or anywhere over the German wundermadchen in 99 Olympic, World Cup and World Championship races dating to 1997 -- until Hamlin took the gold medal at the 2009 worlds.

BRONZE – Allyson Felix and Sanya Richards, track and field. Felix won her third straight world title at 200 meters; Richards finally got the major meet gorilla off her back by winning her first individual title, at 400 meters. Then they teamed up for a second straight world gold in the 4 x 400 meters.

World Performances of the Year

MEN

GOLD – Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazil. The Brazilian president’s appeal to the International Olympic Committee during final presentations before the 2016 Olympic vote was a brilliant mix of emotion and pragmatism. One telling example: after weeks of telling the IOC to stop giving the Olympics only to rich countries, President Lula reminded everyone that Brazil was the only country among the world’s top 10 economies that had yet to be an Olympic host. That ended when the IOC made Rio the 2016 winner.

SILVER – Usain Bolt, Jamaica, track and field. His world-record time of 9.58 seconds at the Berlin worlds was, well, otherworldly. Next for Bolt: the sound barrier.

BRONZE – Kenenisa Bekele, Ethiopia, track and field. Running in Bolt’s shadow, Bekele became the first man to win the 5,000 and 10,000 meters at a world championships. "I would definitely beat him [Bolt] at this distance," Bekele joked after the 5,000.

WOMEN

GOLD – Caster Semenya, South Africa, track and field. Her stunning win in the 800 meters at the world meet, in a time more than 8 seconds better than her personal best a year earlier, touched off a controversy over what constitutes sexual identity and fair competition that has yet to be resolved. Rivals railed that Semenya, 18, was a man; tests have reportedly shown her to be intersex. Semenya will keep her gold medal, but her competitive future has yet to be decided.

SILVER – Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli, cycling, France. Longo, a 1996 Olympic champion, won her 56th national cycling title last summer – at age 50. She also finished 10th in the time trial at worlds five weeks before her 51st birthday.

BRONZE – Kim Yuna, South Korea, figure skating. Before a large contingent of compatriots in a sellout Los Angeles crowd, Kim not only became the first South Korean to win a world figure skating title but did it with a record score, won by a whopping 16 points despite two significant errors in her free skate and established herself as a prohibitive favorite for 2010 Olympic gold.

WORLD ATHLETES OF THE DECADE

MEN

Michael Phelps, United States, swimming: Utterly no contest here. With a record-breaking 14 Olympic gold medals, 20 world championship gold medals and 29 individual world records (the first in 2001; the most recent in August 2009), Phelps was in a class by himself.

WOMEN

Anja Paerson, Sweden, alpine skiing. Quietly, unassumingly (except for her celebratory belly slides after races), the 28-year-old had a decade of brilliance in every dimension. Three Olympic medals (one of each color); seven world titles (plus two seconds and a third); two World Cup overall titles; five World Cup event titles; and 40 World Cup wins, making her No. 4 all-time in that category.

-- Philip Hersh


Latest USOC reform group shows promise by avoiding usual suspects

It would be polite to say I was skeptical when the U.S. Olympic Committee announced Nov. 12 that it had appointed an independent advisory committee chaired by former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to make another potentially costly assessment of the USOC's governance structure and operations.

There now is reason to hope this effort will not be as futile as several others that have preceded it: Tagliabue and almost all the 13 other committee members named Thursday (click here for the list) are not among the "usual suspects" who have served on previous such committees.  (One who was there in the past, Jim McCarthy, always was unafraid to be a voice of dissenting reason.) That shows a refreshing bit of out-of-the-box thinking.

Tagliabue's input concentrated on the four members without direct links to the Olympic movement.  The rest are athletes; past and present leaders of USOC constituencies like national sports federations; and Chicago 2016 chairman Patrick Ryan.

"I couldn't tell you who the usual suspects are," Tagliabue said in a phone conversation Thursday. "I was trying to come up with people who were a good mix of experience: sports, not-for-profit, business, a few younger people, all of whom understand sports, the 21st century and the United States and international marketplace."

There already have been six assessments of how the USOC runs itself since 1988 -- one, by high-end consultants McKinsey & Co., cost $600,000. The sisyphean sum of them was wasted time, money and effort. The revolving door in USOC leadership continued, with several major changes in the last year, and the organization became more and more of a laughingstock whose actions amused, bemused and irritated the rest of the global Olympic community, all reflected in Chicago's first-round ouster from the 2016 host city voting.

Only the most recent governance review, done by internal and independent groups compelled by congressional hearings when USOC dysfunction hit a new low in 2003, had a significant effect.  It cut the size of the USOC board from 125 voting members to nine.

Tagliabue-1 Now, that revised structure has come under criticism because it created a board so small, with such a large percentage of independent directors who knew nothing about how the Olympic movement works, that it was easily dominated by a group or a member.  In this case, it was a man, former USOC chairman Peter Ueberroth, whose management style might be euphemistically described as authoritarian.

While Ueberroth was replaced by Larry Probst 14 months ago, the seeds of discontent and distrust between the board and its constituencies -- mainly the national federations (NGBs) that govern individual sports -- had bloomed into a kudzu of suspicion that entangled everything.  Thus: the NGB leaders' demand after Chicago's Oct. 2 rout that both Probst and interim CEO Stephanie Streeter step down immediately.

Streeter, a lightning rod for criticism since a power play ousted Jim Scherr in March and put her in the job, withdrew her name from the permanent CEO search and agreed to leave before the Vancouver Olympics. Probst, determined to prove his detractors wrong and angered by ever-increasing vituperation in their attacks on him, pledged to devote full-time to fixing the USOC's problems and defied any efforts to run him off.      

Step 1 for Probst was implementing the CEO search, which is supposed to produce an appointment in early January.

Step 2 was naming Tagliabue as head of the committee that would review the way the USOC governs itself and operates.  Probst, former CEO of Electronic Arts, got to know Tagliabue through the video games giant's relationship with the NFL, although their relationship was strictly business, and they had spent minimal time together.

"I thought Larry ran a great company," Tagliabue said. "He was open, transparent, no gamesmanship."

Step 3 came Thursday, when the USOC named 13 members of the committee (not including Probst) that will work with Tagliabue, who has been talking with NGB leaders and others familiar with the USOC for the last month.

The committee includes enough people with Olympic movement experience (including USA Triathlon chief executive Skip Gilbert, Probst's most vocal and harshest critic; Paralympians, Olympians; and businessmen with sports backgrounds, like Washington Wizards and Mystics owner Raul Fernandez) to satisfy those dissatisfied about the lack of such people on the USOC board.

Tagliabue clearly seems inclined to recommend a larger USOC board than the current one, which now includes just eight voting members, two of whom (the U.S. members of the International Olympic Committee) share one vote.  He just returned from chairing a meeting of the Georgetown University board, which has 45 members, a size he called workable.

"In the NFL, we had a 32-member board, and that was workable," he said.

Tagliabue also said a USOC board would work better if it included strong committees in several key areas -- athlete performance, TV / new media, facilities, finance, international relations.  Such a board would probably need no fewer than 25 members.

"A larger bunch can be handled," he said. "My hunch is this board should be expanded to be made more representative and get additional skill sets on it."

Tagliabue said he expects the committee to meet three times before issuing a report in March.  The only significant expenses will be travel; all the committee members are working pro bono.

"Everything starts with those two 2003 reports," he said. "What I have been hearing from most people involved pre-2003 and post-2003 is a lot of what was recommended and adopted hit the mark, but obviously there are quite a few pieces missing or we wouldn't be where we are.

"There has been so much negativity and criticism after the decision on Chicago and along the way.  But I am surprised as I talk to people, once they get beyond venting, they really say, 'We don't have to go back to Square One here.' "

Tagliabue boils the governance issues down to three questions:

  • Where did the 2003 reforms hit the mark?
  • Where did they miss the mark in terms of structure?
  • Where did the USOC get the structure right but have some individual or group of individuals drive the train off the track?

As he began to explore those issues, Tagliabue began to feel the committee needed to explore more than governance.

"The USOC is a part of a complex network of organizations," he said. "A lot of people felt there was not a lot of clarity in terms of what people in the network really expect the USOC to do.

"They build training facilities for some sports, not others.  If they [the USOC] build a training center, does that mean they are responsible for producing great athletes or is the NGB responsible?  The feeling I was getting is one of 'We don't know where our role ends and theirs begins.'

"And you've got 40 different models [for the NGBs' role].  So I felt there was a question we needed to address about the operating model of this network:  who is responsible for what, who funds what, how do you raise the funding, how do you decide how it goes out to the federations?

"Everyone seems to agree that we have been arguing about that for 15 years or more. If you don't have clarity, you'll be running into each other when you shouldn't run into each other, and you don't hire the right people to do the right jobs."

The USOC has shown stunning skill in hiring the wrong people for two decades.  And if you are running around like a clueless chicken with its head removed, you are bound to bump into someone else doing the same job -- just as badly.

If the USOC gets the right CEO and a board structure the chairman cannot rule like a fiefdom, it has a chance to do more than get out of its own way.  Maybe even bring another Olympics to the United States.

-- Philip Hersh

Photo: Paul Tagliabue.  Credit: Chuck Burton / Associated Press


To gain long-term clout, U.S. needs longer term for Olympic boss

Larry Probst needs to be the U.S. Olympic Committee chairman for at least eight years.

That is the only way to begin addressing issues highlighted in postmortems after the dismal failures of the last two U.S. bids to host a Summer Olympics.

1.  The United States has no clout in the Olympic world.

2.  The U.S. Olympic Committee leadership has changed so frequently in the past decade it has developed none of the relationships to create such clout.

The current situation:

The United States has ZERO presidents of international federations with sports still on the Olympic program.

And ZERO places on the 15-member executive board of the International Olympic Committee.

And just two IOC members -- compared, for instance, with five each for Italy and for Switzerland.  Neither U.S. member -- Anita DeFrantz nor Jim Easton -- is considered a major player in the IOC.

Continue reading »

USOC boss vows transparency. Maybe even in CEO search?

There were two noteworthy aspects to the United States Olympic Committee's announcement Thursday of the nine-member search and selection committee charged with finding a new USOC chief executive by the end of the year.

One is the committee, as previously promised by USOC board Chairman Larry Probst, includes representatives of every USOC constituent group, including two members of the Athletes Advisory Committee.

The other is that it does not include any of the U.S. sports federation (NGB) leaders who have been publicly critical of the current USOC leadership --  Probst and acting CEO Stephanie Streeter.

But there are valid reasons for not having the two most outspoken NGB leaders, Steve Penny (gymnastics) and Skip Gilbert (triathlon).

Since Penny's name has been bandied about as a candidate for CEO, it makes sense that he would not Mary Lou steve and carly be on a search committee.  Gilbert was not interested in the role. And the NGBs backed the choice of USA Hockey boss Dave Ogrean -- a former USOC deputy marketing director -- as their representative in the search process, for which the USOC announced Thursday it has hired Spencer Stuart as its search firm.

And the search committee does include the one USOC board member, Mike Plant, willing to be loyal opposition -- both to the previous chairman, Peter Ueberroth, whose ideas had been essentially rubber-stamped by a board full of Ueberroth appointees, as well as to Probst.

Penny and Gilbert were, however, among several NGB leaders who met with Probst on Tuesday at his office near San Francisco. Probst also had a private meeting with Gilbert, who recently had called for him to resign as chairman. The feeling that emerged, sources said, is that Probst does not bear grudges.

During the general meeting,  Probst let all the NBG leaders candidly air their grievances and suggestions. A key one was that the new CEO needs real familiarity with the world of sports (and preferably the Olympic movement) to avoid a long learning curve. Whether Probst agrees remains to be seen.

Streeter and two of her three immediate CEO predecessors, Lloyd Ward and Norm Blake, all came from corporate backgrounds, were unsuited for the USOC post and spent little time in the job.

Maybe that is why the USOC won't a) pay the search firm until 18 months after the CEO is in place and b) retained the right to set the amount of the payment.  If the result is another short-term stiff, the USOC should stiff Spencer Stuart, selected from nine search firm candidates.

The search committee can recommend one or more CEO candidates to the board.

Probst reiterated to the NGB leaders what he had told the media when Streeter announced Oct. 7 she did not want to be considered for the permanent post:  That he now is willing to devote full time to the chairman's job and that he is in it for the long haul, which presumably means his four-year term that ends after the 2012 Summer Olympics. 

The most significant promise Probst made at the Tuesday meeting was for more transparency in the USOC board's activities, a move NGB leaders have been advocating for the last three years.  That will include having NGB leaders among  outside observers at the board meetings and publishing minutes of the meetings.

Now everyone interested can only hope the board doesn't sidestep that scrutiny by going into executive session to discuss everything.  I want to know what they ordered for lunch.

--Philip Hersh

Olympic all-around champions Mary Lou Retton (left) and Carly Patterson, with USA Gymnastics Chief Executive Steve Penny, a potential candidate to lead the USOC.  Photo: USA Gymnastics.


USOC gets one right: its new communications chief

Olympics
Maybe the U.S. Olympic Committee leadership is beginning to get it.

Its choice of an acting chief communications officer shows at least a little comprehension of how particular an entity the USOC is -- and that skills in one area may not necessarily work in the Olympic arena.

The danger was that the USOC would hire another person from a corporate background who would need months just to digest the alphabet soup of acronyms in Olympic business.

Instead, the USOC announced today that it has chosen Patrick Sandusky, who has spent five years learning about the Olympics -- and learning to love what they can stand for.

Continue reading »

U.S. Olympic Committee chaos: the whole story

Stephanie The top two officials of the U.S. Olympic Committee, acting chief executive Stephanie Streeter and board chairman Larry Probst, took actions Wednesday that were tantamount to an admission the USOC had failed Chicago in its bid to be host of the 2016 Olympics.

But even Streeter’s announcement she would not seek the job on a permanent basis and Probst’s decision to turn his volunteer position into a full-time commitment fell short of satisfying their critics.

Leaders of 46 national sports federations, known as NGBs, who are directly involved in preparing Olympic athletes, gave a collective vote of no-confidence in both Streeter and Probst and called for both to resign immediately.

Streeter is to stay as acting CEO through a search process Probst said should be complete by the end of the first quarter of 2010. Before the NGB statement was issued, Probst said he had no plans to resign.

NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol and NGB Council chair Skip Gilbert decried the idea that Streeter, acting CEO since March 5, would stay in her position during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Continue reading »

What the U.S. Olympic Committee would rather keep silent

The United States Olympic Committee prefers the sounds of silence.

Here is what -- or hear what -- it isn't saying:

-- There is an open spot on the U.S. Olympic Committee board of directors -- the independent director position Stephanie Streeter belatedly vacated after becoming acting USOC chief executive in March.

I have learned the favorite to fill it is Robert Bach, president of Microsoft's entertainment and devices division.

Why might his addition to the board be significant?

Like Streeter and other board members, he has ties to Stanford University. Streeter and board member Jair Lynch received undergraduate degrees from Stanford; board member Bob Bowlsby is the Stanford director of athletics; and Bach got his MBA from Stanford.

And Bach works in the same general area (hardware and software for entertainment) as did USOC Chairman Larry Probst, the retired chief executive of video games giant Electronic Arts. To my question of whether he and Bach had a professional relationship, Probst replied (somewhat obliquely) Tuesday by e-mail: "Part of his [Bach's] responsibility is the Xbox business and Electronic Arts develops software products for the Xbox platform.''

And what might that mean?

Continue reading »

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