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"The Official Word"
A rotating blog featuring USATF Board members and officials

The Official Word

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Photo of Stephanie Hightower
by Stephanie Hightower

Last week, USA Track & Field sent our largest contingent ever to the Olympic Assembly in Colorado Springs, where the U.S. Olympic Committee brings together the members of the Olympic Family in the United States. Included in several days of meetings are National Governing Bodies such as USATF, athletes, committees, sponsors and scores of others.
 
In the last year, the USOC has been through a public relations minefield: its Board of Directors fired CEO Jim Scherr, then became the subject of attacks by the public and media, who criticized the USOC and its Board for appearing to be secretive, opaque, elitist and out-of-touch. Other key staff left and a cable TV Olympic Network was announced without consulting key players. Things came to a head when Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympic Games was rejected in the first round of voting, despite having an outstanding bid and benefitting from the promotional efforts of President Obama and the First Lady.
 
The USOC got the message.
 
At the 2010 Olympic Assembly, USOC Chair Larry Probst was frank about his own failings and those of the USOC, and he was equally clear about the things that have already changed. Most notable was Larry's willingness to admit his mistakes and pledge transparency, focus and open-mindedness as hallmarks of the Board and USOC staff moving forward.
 
When USA Track & Field's Board had its first meeting in 2009, we all pledged to be as open and accessible as possible. We post all our minutes online, and we make sure that those minutes meaningfully describe what we do.  Bios of all Board members, our meeting schedule and organizational Strategic Plan are all online at http://www.usatf.org/about/committees/BoardOfDirectors/. I encourage you to revisit the page or to check it out for the first time.
 
Since USA Track & Field's Board voted for a change in executive leadership just over two weeks ago, we have been even more united, clear in our vision and eager to engage the public. As you will see from reading individual biographies, we have extensive experience on corporate and nonprofit boards, in Fortune 500 companies, in the committee structure of USATF, and on the field of play.
 
A lot has been written, speculated and blogged about relating to USATF and our Board since our vote two weeks ago. The take-away from all this is that we as an organization are moving forward with a renewed unity and determination. The Board has been holding "town hall" conference calls with segments of the volunteer leadership, to hear their concerns and ideas and respond accordingly. We are legally bound to keep certain personnel matters private as the specifics of the CEO's departure are worked out, and we are all committed to staying out of a public mud-slinging contest. But it is critical that we assure the stakeholders within USATF that our door is open, we are listening to them, and we understand and appreciate their point of view. Simply by listening to, rather than talking at, our committees and leaders, we are setting the tone for the future. "Engagement" is our buzzword when it comes to the interaction of the Board with USATF staff, athletes, volunteers, officials -- everyone important to the sport.
 
One frequently asked question that we do want to address is concern about the financial impact of transitioning to a new CEO. It is important to us as a Board to let you know unequivocally that we considered every possible ramification of seeking leadership change in the realm of finance, politics, governance. Everything. And we are united in our strong belief that a change is not only best for the organization in terms of pursuing a new direction, but that in the end it will be best for our bottom line. I cannot over emphasize the philosophy that our Board would never take an action that imperils the long-term stability of USATF. Our fiduciary responsibility to all of you is our guiding principle.
 
In this blog space in the next several weeks, you will find postings by Board members about the present and the future, about which we are all excited. The Board will be meeting via phone weekly, and our next in-person meeting is October 9 in Indianapolis, when we will finalize the criteria and search process for the next CEO.
 
As soon as it is final, we will publicly inform everyone via this blog about what we are looking for, who will help us look for it, and how we will ensure that we make the best choice for USATF when we hire the next CEO. Our intent is to ensure that the stakeholders of our sport understand what is happening and why.
 
Like our friends at the USOC, we pledge transparency, focus and open-mindedness as we all, together, pursue a better future. It's a future where unity, not divisiveness, pushes us ahead.
 
Stephanie Hightower is President and Chairman of the Board of USA Track & Field.

COMMENTS
The firing of the previous CEO came as a bit of a surprise to me. Based on his comments, it appears that it was a surprise to him as well. By definition, that suggests that there wasn't much transparency at the top of USA Track & Field. Not necessary to share everyone's complaints in real time, but it would have been nice to know a while ago that there were uncorrectable complaints and issues of such magnitude as to warrant firing the CEO after only 2 years.
Posted by: Marshall Burt on 9/28/2010 12:14:19 PM PT
There is a way to air the dirty laundry without airing the dirty laundry. May be label it as "challenges the sport faces" and proceed to list people's complaints about what wasn't being adequately addressed by the CEO or what wasn't getting done. There should be someone in the organization capable of doing that.
Posted by: Marshall Burt on 9/28/2010 12:23:32 PM PT
If the Board is truly committed to being transparent, why have they gone into executive session (with no minutes posted) at nearly every board meeting? Seems disingenuous to me. No matter how the Board and this blog tries to dress things up, their motives seem very clear to those who have their eyes open.
Posted by: Anonymous on 9/28/2010 12:38:34 PM PT
Ms. Hightower has no transparency. At the USATF National Championships held in Carson a few years back, she let everyone know her thoughts by YELLING, SCREAMING, CURSING and BELITTLING the volunteers at the National Championships. Some to the point of them leaving the event. It's amazing what yelling, screaming and being unprofessional can get you. With leaders like Ms. Hightower at the top, its no wonder why USATF can't get its act straight.
Posted by: Jose Aruba on 9/28/2010 12:39:38 PM PT
How much is Larry James being paid to be counsel to the Board? Doesn't USATF have its own in-house counsel? Why the overlap? Why doesn't it surprise me that Mr James lives in Columbus, OH, as does President Hightower? The good old girl network in play....
Posted by: Anonymous on 9/28/2010 12:44:48 PM PT
From http://freepress.org/columns/display/3/2003/313 on Hightower ...There was no mention of Hightower's secret attempts to give WCBE, valued at up to $17 million to WOSU. Nor was their any mention of her highly-publicized problems in the early 1990's when she was a Communications Officer at the Ohio Department of Mental Health. Then-Ohio Inspector General David Sturtz issued a report accusing Hightower of making 134 hours of personal long-distance phone calls while on the job. Hightower left the agency and agreed to reimburse for the phone calls. State Auditor Thomas E. Ferguson concluded that Hightower owed the state $419.44 for phone calls and $3,291.32 for 134 hours of missed work while on the phone. Hightower, a Democrat, took a job with Mayor Greg Lashutka's Republican administration. In 1999, Hightower suddenly decided to run as a Democrat for the Columbus Board of Education. Between June and the November election, she raised more than $133,000 from the city's elite to run for a job which pays a maximum of $2,880 a year. Her nearest competitors, the well-connected Karen Schwarzwalder and Bob Teater, raised $20,610 and $20,551, respectively.
Posted by: The Truth on 9/28/2010 12:55:30 PM PT
A column about "transparency" is rather entertaining, with the vague references to "change in executive leadership just over two weeks ago" and "the CEO's departure". The link to this blog was sent to people who don't wait with bated breath for the next USATF meeting; if you send a link to a broad audience, you could at least tailor the message at the destination site to that audience. Most of the rank-and-file membership really doesn't care about the politics of the boardroom; we just want you to represent athletes honestly, keep the news focused on them, and act like professionals. Cryptic blog posts about engagement, openess, transparency, are not helpful.
Posted by: Dimitri Drekonja on 9/28/2010 12:58:07 PM PT
It concerns me that a blog had been created to express to the stakeholders of USATF that the board is committed to the course that was set in 2009 but the person at the top that put this in motion is now not the right person to move the organization forward.I am not interested in the perceived shortcomings of the USOC. I am concerned at the shortcomings of USATF Board. Everything that has been sent out from Stephanie in the last 2 weeks attempts to let everyone know that the Board is more united than ever in what is being doing and that the resumes of the board show that they have more than enough experience to move this organization forward. The fact that it has to be said in every communication, coming from the board, tells me that you are trying to convince the stakeholders that everything is okay when your very words tell us everything is not okay. Stop the snow job..
Posted by: Sean Robison on 9/28/2010 1:04:39 PM PT
Hightower seems to be a leader by position only. Her messages are so flat and uninspiring. She constently talks about what is going to be done, but things with USATF seem to be the same old thing year in and year out.
Posted by: R.W.Ross on 9/28/2010 1:07:08 PM PT
From Columbus Dispatch on James: Larry James, a powerful corporate attorney and the city's former Public Safety Director, served as (Hightower's) treasurer. James was appointed co-chair of the School's Accountability Panel for a planned $1.6 billion school renovation and construction plan. Voters approved the first $400 million last November. A November 17, 2002 Dispatch editorial entitled "Here we go again" pointed out that James planned to "tweak" a draft of the ethics policy, particularly the part that forbid Accountability panel members or members of their families from being parties or beneficiaries of any contracts paid for with the construction bond money.
Posted by: More Truth on 9/28/2010 1:13:58 PM PT
The Dispatch wrote: "In fact, a skeptic might say that James' principle 'qualification' to lead the Accountability Panel is that he served as campaign treasurer for Stephanie Hightower, the School Board President. The notion of cutting corners on an ethics policy is ludicrous on its face." Cabot managed to get another lifelong friend, Paul Goggin, appointed as the other chair. "
Posted by: More More Truth on 9/28/2010 1:15:49 PM PT
Three comments: 1. For the life of me, I don't understand what Doug Logan did wrong. 2. I do not see how USATF can serve all it's constituencies, or anyway, the goal of getting elite athletes into world-level meets AND provide youth-to-grave recreation/training/competition opportunities and organization 3. what executive in her or his right mind is going to take a gig with us, after this coup?
Posted by: Bruce Colman on 9/28/2010 1:24:06 PM PT
I have read in several accounts that the USATF Board of Directors offered former CEO Doug Logan a substantial six figure raise....in the weeks before his dismissal. Is this true and how does it jive with their decision to "fire" him just a few days or weeks later? What the heck happened in the meantime? There are many good people on the board...and I have to have some faith in them...but it is conflicting as well as "curious" to me....when I read this.
Posted by: Craig Virgin on 9/28/2010 1:50:57 PM PT
I think Logan was doing a good job. Sounds to me like he got railroaded out of the job! Looks like a "stab in the back" by Ms Hightower.
Posted by: Gordon Edwards on 9/28/2010 2:03:08 PM PT
Poor Jill Geer.
Posted by: Ken Stone on 9/28/2010 2:42:58 PM PT
How on Earth can you talk about leadership, communications and transparency when the Logan firing was handled so poorly, still no one knows what happened? This is pathetically sad.
Posted by: Jim Smith on 9/28/2010 4:18:57 PM PT
Please take the time to find a CEO who understands television. I am sick and tired of seeing high school football, poker, pool, and lacrosse on cable TV and very little track and field. How about a six part cable series about how to teach high school athletes how to sprint faster?
Posted by: Q. Stallcup on 9/28/2010 4:20:14 PM PT
It seems pretty obvious to any one beyond a Jr High School Hurdler that President Hightower's only transparency is her personal desire for the CEO position
Posted by: Jack Nelson on 9/28/2010 4:51:04 PM PT
I'm confused. You would think that with all that's at stake here for youth, the elite, the master and every joe and jill in between that the USATF would loo and act as the professional organization that it should be. REMEMBER, We are the premier organization for Track and Field. I thought by Doug Logan's hiring, we were moving in a direction of opening up our sport and trying to make it move up in stature as other sports are trying to and succeeding in doing. No matter now. The next CEO should be one who should understand media as Q. Stallcup suggests becuase we need to attract and interest more people to our sport. In addition, we need to attract more youth to the sport much the same as youth soccer hsa done. More education and yes, clear communication from all. My mom used to say that you don't have to say it, they'll see it in your actions. Let's see it.
Posted by: Phil Leake on 9/28/2010 5:55:06 PM PT
I'm glad that Doug Logan was fired.The comments that he has made since his dismissal show what a lack of class he has. He is an arrogant jerk who knew nothing about track and field.His blogs made me sick.He collected a huge salary and stayed in five star hotels in Europe on our dime.At international competitions he only showed up to take team pictures ( dressed in funny clothes).The rest of the time he hung out in the VIP room, not with our athletes or at the team warm up area.Hopefully our next CEO will know something about our sport and will take better care of our athletes ( our most important commodity).
Posted by: Bob skinner on 9/28/2010 6:34:34 PM PT
I'm looking forward to reading this blog and learning more about the future of USA Track & Field.
Posted by: David Pickett on 9/28/2010 6:47:46 PM PT
To the USATF Board, Since there was a recent evaluation of Doug Logan after his two years in office, when will there be an evaluation of the USATF President Hightower? Since, the decision has been made that USATF will be transparent and as member of USATF it would be interesting to know what the USATF President has accomplished since being in office for almost a year. Do we have to wait until next year for an evaluation to discover that not much has been accomplished? As a member of USATF, and like most at the grassroots level that keep USATF functioning; we deserve leadership that is competent and wants to be there for the sport and not for the entitlement and perks. In my opinion, it was so obvious; Hightower was elected on popularity even after a poor track record within USATF and that track keeps growing from past exposure outside of USATF. How sad, USATF has become the laughing stock of the sporting world.
Posted by: Gilbert Castillo on 9/28/2010 8:11:03 PM PT
The USATF is clearly dysfunctional. This blog post only served to reinforce this idea.
Posted by: Anon on 9/28/2010 9:25:51 PM PT
Ladies and Gentlemen all this talk about nothing is great! USOC? Dont Care ! WHat is your plan to grow this company in members and sponsorship? No answers ? of course not! when will athletes be allowed to get their own sponsors since the only people who get any money from usatf have to run the 10k and be signed by nike and live and train in Oregon? answers? none ! ok great stephanie I thought so !
Posted by: patrick on 9/29/2010 7:56:52 AM PT
It really sounds like USATF is a troubled organization, from the firing of Logan, to the fact that nobody "good" would want to take over running it. Maybe it is time for a clean sweep, starting with Hightower and her cronies.
Posted by: A. Webb on 9/29/2010 3:39:24 PM PT
Why are we having a discussion in 2010 about the direction and leadership of the USATF. Until we develop a "philosophy" that "drills down" to what we really believe, we have no direction.....except that we are going in un-manageable directions. No body can serve all constituents unless it is at "6-1 ratio." Each body under the current USATF should have its own organization and be "independent contractors" who advocate for their "unit" and are not dependent on some "outside entity" to "grant them funds!" Do It Yourself (organization). You only become strong by being independent!!!! Learn to tie a knot, sleep outside, and handle a firearm in self-defense. We have lost the "American Spirit!" Find it quick!!!! You don't focus on being #1...Just Do Your Best.
Posted by: R T Myers on 9/29/2010 4:50:43 PM PT
In 2010, why don't the USATF have a channel where you can watch track without missing a meet due to golf,cycling or any other non sport.
Posted by: Armand Gibson on 9/29/2010 6:14:53 PM PT
In 2010, why don't the USATF have a channel where you can watch track without missing a meet due to golf,cycling or any other non sport.
Posted by: Armand Gibson on 9/29/2010 6:14:54 PM PT
"In 2010, why don't the USATF have a channel where you can watch track without missing a meet due to golf,cycling or any other non sport." First, money. The organization barely can stay afloat after burning off losses last two years, paying off Logan and funding shenanigans expected of current Board and new CEO (may be the same). Someone has to pay for those TV shows and USATF does not have the money. Second, demand. If we really wanted this, flotrack would be famous or universal sports TV would not be buried on the channel guide in less than half of eh cities in the USA. Golf is one thing but tennis and cycling are not that widely covered. Versus is the channel of last resort for most sports and a few days of the Tour de France does not make for a great coverage plan.
Posted by: Realist on 9/29/2010 6:34:14 PM PT
Realist, you should get your facts straight. Versus has blanket coverage of EVERY STAGE OF THE TOUR DE FRANCE, WITH REPEAT COVERAGE THROUGHT THE DAY UP UNTIL MIDNIGHT. eACH STAGE IS BETWEEN 3-5 HOURS IN LENGTH.
Posted by: joe on 9/29/2010 7:17:30 PM PT
I literally laughed out loud reading this? Are you kidding me? USATF is a JOKE!
Posted by: RIch Hienonen on 9/29/2010 10:53:16 PM PT
Running an organization such as the USATF is hard ... very hard. I thank and commend the board for their hard work.
Posted by: wayne redwood on 9/30/2010 12:03:26 PM PT
Two Questions: 1) Do you think anyone awill ever reat USATF Management will ever read this blog? 2) If so, How many hour until they shut it down?
Posted by: Michael Dyer on 9/30/2010 1:34:25 PM PT
Two Questions: 1) Do you think anyone in USATF Management will ever read this Blog, 2) If they do. How long will it take before they shut it down?
Posted by: Michael Dyer on 9/30/2010 1:36:48 PM PT
These comments need posted in a format that leaves no doubt who is the contributor. The current form does not make it immediately obvious whether a name is associated with the previous comment or the following comment.
Posted by: Jim Brandyberry on 9/30/2010 3:54:09 PM PT
Question if you have a person who worked for NASCAR on your staff why arent we using any of the strategy that they used? Answer Stephanie Answer
Posted by: Patrick on 9/30/2010 4:00:42 PM PT
Firing Logan was the right thing to do, he never should have been hired in the first place. He was arrogant and ignorant to our sport, nothing redeeming about his tenure. He's shown what an insufferable dolt he truly is in his post departure interviews. I'm not intimately aware of other board issues, other than the Larry James as counsel issue doesn't pass the smell test. In the mean time, I see that Bill Schmidt is interested in the CEO job. That sounds like a good thing to me. Can we get him to promise: not to slick his hair back and wear skin tight leather pants to track meets: to refuse to post his ipod playlist (because we don't care): and to not skip major IAAF meets in Europe to instead attend tennis or soccer matches (and then report on them, ignoring the track results)?? Please????
Posted by: Don Bailey on 10/1/2010 11:11:06 AM PT
The first quailfication the be the CEO of USATF should be that he or she have a Track & Field bachground and a passion for track and field with the highest priority of what is in the best interest for our sport, not forgetting that the youth are the future and the masters are proven examples of Loyality and dedication to the sport of Track and field.
Posted by: Coach Pate on 10/1/2010 4:42:58 PM PT
I find it shocking that Mr. Logan was so disgusting, vulgar & crude in his remarks about the Board of Directors. What's also shocking is how poorly so many of you express yourselves in writing, i.e., grammar, spelling, punctuation, run-on sentences, etc. How about taking a little extra time to proof-read your comments?
Posted by: linda on 10/2/2010 5:41:46 PM PT
It's bad PR to have proven drug cheats included on the USATF website, along with banned coaches like Trevor Graham and Remi Korchemny - is anyone paying attention? Try USATF site searches for Tim Montgomery, Jerome Young, and Chryste Gaines.
Posted by: Jane Runner on 10/4/2010 10:34:41 PM PT
Let's add Regina Jacobs to Jane Runner's list.
Posted by: linda on 10/5/2010 9:54:38 AM PT
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USA Track & Field (USATF) is the national governing body for track and field, long distance running, and race walking. Headquartered in Indianapolis, the organization has more than 90,000 members throughout the country.

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