THE REAL DEAL IN RENO – A STACKED DECK ?

In a couple of days USA Track and Field will host its national convention in Reno, Nevada. There are at least two extremely important actions and activities that will take place:
1. Review and perhaps action on restructuring of USATF governance
2. Election of officers
Both of these activities are fraught and filled with smokey political power plays by several entities who have their own self-serving agendas to institute:
1. The USOC ( Jim Scheer, Jay Warwick ), Doug Logan ( USATF CEO ), Bill Roe ( USATF president ), Lynn Cannon ( USATF Secretary ),  Ed Koch ( USATF treasurer ),David Greifinger ( counsel to the board ) all want to see a unitary form of governance where most of the power and authority is centered in the hands of the CEO, at the greatly reduced influence and decision- making authority of volunteers and athletes. This would be a mistake even if we had a CEO that was knowledgeable about the history, legacy and nuances of the sport.. But given the self-declared ignorance of the CEO and lack of experience upon which we can make a judicious assessment of his fit for the job, it is sheer lunacy to concentrate that much power into such untested hands.  Much of what is being proffered ranges from the ill-advised to the illegal. For example, The Amateur Sports Act ( Ted Stevens Act ), mandates that USATF represents and is governance for: Disabled Athletics, Youth Athletics, Masters Athletics, Long Distance Running, and Elite and Emerging Elite Athletes.  At present, except for disabled, these different constituencies all have direct representation on the Board of Directors in the form of a seat and voting power. The new restructure plan would greatly reduce their number and representation on the Board. In some instances they would not have a direct voice and influence in matters that directly impact what they do, and how they do it.  This is ill-advised and contrary to the intent of the Amateur Sports Act. Gratuitously disenfranchising some of these constituencies that USATF is mandated to serve, in order to meet some sort of arbitrary USOC approved number, is in direct violation of the tenet that legislation should be the result of fair, equal and proper representation. The USOC is mandating a smaller board because they have been convinced by certain officers on the board, that the current board is too large and dysfunctional. Further, they would like to see a board more along the lines of their own. It should be noted that at last year’s national convention, Jim Scheer, executive director of the USOC, spoke to the board of USATF about what he saw as the needs, possible time lines and demands of USATF restructuring. The board, that had no prior notice that Scheer would be on the agenda, and that is supposed to be so divided and dysfunctional, spontaneously voted virtually unanimously to reject the demands made by Scheer.
2. The second area of grave concern centers around the idea that the president, elected by the duly representative body of delegates at the convention, would have to be elected again by the board in order to serve as chair of the board. Up until this very date, the president has always chaired the board meetings. But when it became more and more apparent that Stephanie Hightower was going to win the election, a new restructuring caveat was inserted. Under the amended restructure plan the elected president would be a member of the board, but would have to run for the chair. The meatless bone thrown to mitigate this break with tradition and broad representation, was that if the president did not win the election for chair, then she/he would automatically be the vice-chair. This all too transparent attempt to pre-empt Stephanie Hightower from automatically enjoying the same status and influence as past presidents, is a shameless ploy to strip her and the assembly voters of having an automatic voice in governance at the highest level of the federation.  The new restructuring calls for approximately 20% ” outside/independent ” seats on the board. That means that people who have even less credibility, connection and understanding about the sport than Doug Logan, could/would have more voting power than volunteers and committees that have run their affairs and ably supported the sport for years.
It has been said that in a democracy, you get exactly what you deserve because you have the ability and capacity to elect the people you want to represent you. Make no mistake about it, there are malicious, sinister, and self-serving efforts a foot to take that right away from too many people who have devoted a significant portion of their life learning and supporting the sport. Within the past couple of weeks we lost two such people, Dr Harmon Brown and Larry James. Between the two of them there is more than 100 years of affiliation and affinity for the support. They have just about as many years of service in the sport as our CEO has official days in office. Larry James was on a USATF conference call the very night before he died,… still trying to be of service to this sport. I was personally in touch with Dr Brown within weeks before he passed. He was still concerned and offering up advice. Will our legacy be to people like this, and thousands others, that there voices and hard won expertise within the sport and elsewhere will not be directly heard and/or severely limited at the decision-making levels of our sport ? Just the thought of such a tragic travesty should fill honest and clear thinking people with disgust.
At the end of the day it is rather prophetic that this convention is in Reno, Nevada. It is the home of quickie divorces, where people lie  in order to get the outcome they want. It is also a legal gambling site and that is exactly what the voting delegates at the convention are being asked to do. They are being asked to gamble on some changes that in some instances have been rushed to print based upon certain people’s disingenuous and dastardly designs on power and who should or should not wield it. The deck is stacked because many are going to be stampeded into feeling they have to act because of the USOC threat of de-certification. The fact of the matter, as long as USATF is making good faith efforts at reform, the USOC has no legitimate grounds for de-certification. No judicial process would support a serious process like this being deliberately and prematurely forced on a legally instituted and properly functioning organization.
It is hoped that the board and the voting assembly will take note of what is really being done and raise up, like the board did a year ago, and resist being stampeded into something that serves no general interests. As the Supreme Court once stated, we ought move forward, “..with all deliberate speed.”.  The operative word is “deliberate”. That will allow for sufficient and in-depth discussion on all the critical issues and concerns in a non-coercive atmosphere that most definitely does not exist at present.
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