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On track with a new boss

July 18, 2008 |  3:04 pm

A few facts about, a few words from and a few observations on Doug Logan, most of which I gleaned today during a one-on-one phone interview, just hours after he was named USA Track & Field's new CEO.

His full name is Douglas George Logan y Gonzales de Mendoza, and his first language is Spanish. Logan was born in 1943 to a mother who had immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba and an American father.

Doug Logan While his father was fighting in the Pacific, he and his mother went to Cuba to live with her parents. After his discharge, Logan's father found a job in Cuba, where the family stayed until 1949. Logan subsequently served with distinction in the U.S. military, earning two Bronze Stars in Vietnam.

He knows entertainment.  Logan promoted rock-and-roll acts from 1985 through 1993 as boss of Chicago-based Ogden Presents, and, again as boss, booked them for the MetroCentre in Rockford, Ill., from 1979 through 1985.

His biggest coup: landing the Rolling Stones at the 10,000-seat MetroCentre as the third official stop on the Stones' 1981 Tattoo Tour -- after the band had just played the 75,000-seat JFK Stadium in Philadelphia.

Since leaving Major League Soccer, Logan has run Empresario, a New York-based sports consulting firm.

His take on how rock can apply to track: "When I took the job at the MetroCentre, [legendary promoter] Bill Graham told me, 'Throw out your whole collection of old rock-and-roll records and listen to what the market wants.' We have to think similarly to attract audiences in track and field.''

Logan's USATF contract runs through Dec. 31, 2013, with a renewal option during the first six months of that year. It will pay approximately what outgoing CEO Craig Masback earned in 2006 -- $375,416 (plus $37,125 in benefits and deferred compensation), according to USATF's tax filing for that year.

As the first commissioner of Major League Soccer, which was founded in 1996, Logan learned the dangers of exaggeration.

"Before they hired me, I said they already had made two mistakes: one was to adopt the title, MAJOR LEAGUE soccer, because it was building false expectations. The second was to put a franchise in Tampa, which had badly over-reported attendance" during its days as part of the old North American Soccer League.

Logan was ousted as MLS commissioner late in the 1999 season, reportedly because the league's growth had stalled. Average attendance during its inaugural season was 17,406, but fell to 14,282 in 1999. It then dropped to 13,756 during successor Don Garber's first full year as MLS boss.

"Growth was stagnating," Logan said in an email sent after our phone conversation. "Growth continued to stagnate for another four years. Patience is a tough commodity in this business.’’

Logan also drew the ire of MLS leaders for publicly taking on ESPN, the league's TV partner, after it failed to report MLS team D.C. United's victory over Brazilian power Vasco do Gama during the 1998 InterAmerican Cup tournament.  One newspaper report said that Logan had characterized the network's slight as racist.

"I did call attention to ESPN's attitude in ignoring our victory in a major competition -- never called them racist but did question why they were ignoring their own product,'' Logan said in the email.

Logan deserves credit for helping to lay a soccer foundation that obviously was solid. MLS has carved itself a niche in the U.S. sports scene. Attendance has averaged 16,213 so far this season, which is a slight decline from 2007.

(By the way, the Tampa Bay team folded when MLS contracted from 12 to 10 teams after 2001).

"I was dismissed `without cause,’ which meant the owner wanted a new jockey on the horse,’’ Logan also said in the email. "And they paid me a tidy sum to go away.''

Logan likes the clear, unforgiving selection system at the Olympic trials, which cost reigning 200-meter world champion Tyson Gay a spot on the team after he pulled up lame in the quarterfinals. 

But he is less enamored of the confusing "A" standard rule that meant a trial's winner was not guaranteed a place. (That happened in the javelin, a selection process that further was muddied a week later when U.S. record-holder Breaux Greer was placed on the team despite his failure to make the trials final, which reporters had been told was a minimum requirement.)

"The system of win-or-go-home rewards the witness,'' Logan said. "It gives the fan a reason to be in the seats.''

He understands that lingering fallout from past doping scandals hangs over the sport -- as it does over all sports. He also knows there is no magic way to remove it. There are two choices: turn a blind eye, as baseball fans have done, or wait for it to dissipate with the passing of time, provided there are no more BALCO-like scandals.

He has no illusions about track and field's stature in the United States.  "In the 1940s and 1950s, track and field was a nice-looking, polished Chevy driving down the highway at 50 miles per hour. It is still a pretty good Chevy driving at 50 mph. The problem is other sports have become Ferraris.  By the end of the next two [Olympic] quadrenniums, track and field should at least be a 5 Series BMW.''

Then he can adopt an old Beatles' lyric, double entendres and all, as the sport's theme:  "Baby you can drive my car. Yes I'm gonna be a star. Baby you can drive my car. And maybe I'll love you.''

As long as it comes in an mp3 version, that is.

Or maybe that's the sort of old record the sport can do without.

Double entendre there, too.

So many old records belong to unsanctioned dopers.

-- Philip Hersh

Photo: Doug Logan. Credit: USATF