By Phillip Whitten
ORLANDO, Fla., September 21. USMS President Jim Miller won a narrow, divisive victory when the production company he and a majority of the seven member USMS Executive Committee (EC) had recommended to produce the official USMS publication, was approved by a two vote margin of the USMS House of Delegates last Friday.
The struggle over which producer would be approved was the highlight of the annual USMS Convention, held at the Wyndham Palace Resort and Spa on the grounds of Disney World in Orlando, Florida, September 15-19.
Earlier in the week, the Board of Directors (BOD) refused, apparently for the first time in USMS history, to approve all actions, recommendations and minutes of the EC for its work over the previous 12 months. A motion simply to acknowledge all actions by the EC was tabled indefinitely, according to several members of the BOD.
Over the next couple of days much discussion took place surrounding the decision as to whether or not USMS should enter the publishing business. In dramatic fashion, a motion to approve the EC's recommendation of Douglas Murphy Communications (DMC) of Richmond, Virginia, passed by a vote of 97-89-3. A majority of those present and voting — 95 votes — was required for passage of the motion.
President Miller, of Richmond, Virginia, is in line to become the Publisher of the tentatively named USMS Swimmer magazine (a take-off title from the recently defunct Fitness Swimmer magazine, which failed to survive in the marketplace). He argued that DMC would produce a swim magazine more cheaply than Sports Publications, International (SPI), which has published SWIM Magazine as the official magazine of USMS for the past 12 years helping USMS to grow its membership by 79%, and that USMS would gain an increase in advertising revenues assuming that SWIM Magazine would cease to exist.
SPI's publishing arm extends into 179 countries through Swimming World magazine, Swimming Technique magazine, and SwimInfo.com. It is considered the foremost authority on swimming and has a pool of correspondents from around the world.
After the vote, Brent Rutemiller, CEO of Sports Publications, said he was “stunned” by the outcome. “We always looked at USMS as being family," he said.
"Through our relationship with USMS and SWIM Magazine, SPI gave USMS over $100,000 per year worth of added value in the form of a newsstand presence, workout cards and extended distribution in 52 other countries. Every tenth story on SwimInfo.com was devoted to USMS and its membership.
"We were their customer service center, handling daily calls for information, mailing of back and lost issues, reprinting articles and distributing photos on literally hundreds of occasions, without ever having charged USMS a penny. Not only that, but we extended that courtesy to the free usage of articles and photos from Swimming World and Swimming Technique magazines.
"USMS had full editorial control of SWIM’s content and received a percentage of sales from our swim shop. We had plans to add more value going forward in 2005 with the offering of free premium access to SwimInfo.com to all USMS members and promoting the heck out of the 2006 FINA World Masters Championships in all of our vehicles. More importantly, Masters swimmers were going to be a constant feature on the soon-to-be- launched Swimming World TV. All of that is now off the table with USMS deciding to go it alone.
"However," Rutemiller added, "we are at peace with the final decision and realize that our business model cannot be held hostage to the vote of 200 House of Delegate members every four years. We fully intend to go forward and take back full ownership of our magazine in order to support the adult fitness swim market.
"Some of our moves will be surprising and I suspect they will be viewed as very creative and progressive.
"We thank all of our supporters whose numbers are significant and we wish USMS all the best with its publishing business. We will continue to publish the remaining two issues of SWIM as the official publication of USMS (November/December 2004 and January/February 2005) and then continue to go forward with the same quality and expertise that the membership has come to expect from us,” concluded Rutemiller who can be contacted at Brent Rutemiller.
Opponents were upset with the DMC selection on three major grounds: process, finance and expertise.
Originally, the EC presented the selection of DMC as "a done deal," a "decision," rather than a "recommendation." According to Brent Rutemiller, Dr. Miller told him in a telephone conversation that the decision to go with DMC did not require approval by the Board of Directors or House of Delegates, adding that since it did not involve a budget increase — a debatable supposition — it did not need to be reviewed by the Finance Committee either. That conversation effectively stalled any opposition that SPI could have initiated prior to convention to present its side of the matter.
However, overwhelming opposition to the attempt to impose the selection on the organization by the EC surfaced, forcing the EC to change its "decision" to a "recommendation" and to allow the BOD and HOD to debate the issue.
There were numerous other objections to the process that ultimately resulted in the selection of DMC — objections that, collectively, amounted to powerful evidence that the selection process, itself, was fatally flawed in a number of significant ways. USMS Legal Counsel Patti Powis, of Richmond, Virginia, however, argued that the EC had followed the Professional Management Guidelines (PMG).
Many delegates felt it was unfair that DMC was allowed to make two full-fledged presentations plus it had four members of the EC speaking repeatedly on its behalf garnering votes from the HOD, while SWIM was limited to less than two minutes — and those two minutes came only after the HOD had over-ruled Dr. Miller’s ruling that the SWIM representative would not be permitted to address the HOD.
Speaking after the Finance Committee had met and reviewed what is known about the financial aspect of the DMC proposal (actual numbers had not been presented by the time the debate took place), Chairman Tom Boak, of The Woodlands, Texas, noted that his committee was much less optimistic about DMC’s advertising projections and the EC’s assertion that the magazine would pay for itself within three years. DMC’s President, Douglas Murphy, then acknowledged that the three-year projection was “only an industry average and could take considerably longer,” if at all.
Chairman Boak also expressed grave concern about the open-ended nature of DMC’s financial proposal, or what was known of it. Far from being slightly less costly than SPI’s proposal, as advertised, it had the potential to result in skyrocketing costs; indeed, the history of publishing costs indicated that it would likely be significantly more expensive over the next several years with postage costs, alone, projected to increase ten to fifteen percent next year.
The DMC proposal apparently calls for a “cost-plus” billing of USMS by DMC for its services. In response to additional concerns about costs, Dr. Miller stated the EC would seek a “not to exceed” clause in its negotiations with DMC, acknowledging that at the present time, no contract – or even proposed contract – existed. Many delegates recognized that negotiations are still taking place with DMC and questioned why negotiations never took place with SWIM.
Finally, some delegates were concerned that DMC’s six employees, who publish association magazines for Louisiana game wardens, furniture fixtures, golf driving ranges and managed care physicians, have no connection whatsoever with swimming, and no experience in sports publishing of any kind.
In contrast, they argued, numerous SWIM employees are Masters swimmers, with one having been a member for 33 years. In response, proponents argued that USMS would supply the missing expertise through its volunteer structure.
The first issue of the new USMS magazine will appear in March/April 2005. SWIM will continue to publish, and many delegates, including President Miller and Vice President Scott Rabalais, stated they would subscribe to SWIM.
The Planning Committee, chaired by Betsy Durrant, had a year of hard work pay off when the HOD overwhelmingly approved sweeping changes in the powers of the EC (reduced) and the makeup of the Board of Directors (reduced from 40+ to 17). Election of the new BOD members will take place at the 2005 convention.
Additionally, the new structure provides that:
- An Executive Director will be added as a non-voting member of the EC and BOD.
- Four Vice Presidents have been added to the EC in place of the Zone Committee Chair. They are the VPs of Member Services, Community Service, National Operations and Local Operations.
- The BOD consists of all voting members of the EC plus a director from each zone, who will be nominated by the zone and elected by the HOD.
- Elections for all BOD members will take place at next year's convention Election of the new BOD members will take place at the 2005 convention.
After serving for almost two decades, June Krauser (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) announced her retirement as the USMS representative to FINA. June received a warm, prolonged standing ovation for her years of service.
Nancy Ridout (Novato, California), the immediate past president of USMS, was elected to replace June.
Ransom J. Arthur Award: Leo Letendre – Missouri Valley LMSC
Speedo USMS Coach of the Year: Scott Williams, The Olympic Club – Pacific LMSC
TYR Newsletter of the Year: Oregon LMSC – "Aqua-Master" – Dave Radcliffe, Editor
National Championship Award: Hill Carrow – North Carolina LMSC
David Yorzyk Award: Barbara Dunbar – San Diego – Imperial LMSC
Fitness Award: Jody Welborn, M.D. – Oregon LMSC
Dorothy Donnelly USMS Service Award:
Joan Alexander – Pacific LMSC
Trisha Commons – Southern Pacific LMSC
Marilyn Fink – San Diego – Imperial LMSC
Cheryl Gettelfinger – Indiana LMSC
David LaMott – San Diego – Imperial LMSC
Dennis Mc Manus – Michigan LMSC
Chris Meier-Windes – Pacific LMSC
Mary Meyer Hull – Southern Pacific LMSC
Mark Moore – Southern Pacific LMSC
Jeff Moxie – Southern Pacific LMSC
Anna Lea Roof – Missouri Valley LMSC
Geoorge Simon – North Carolina LMSC
Dotty Whitcomb – Southeastern LMSC
Mary Beth Windrath – Minnesota LMSC
Robert Zeitner – Central LMSC
2006 Pool Championships Awarded To:
Short Course Yards: Coral Springs Aquatic Complex, Coral Springs, FL. The tentative meet dates are May 4-7, 2006
Long Course Meters: There will be no 2006 USMS Long Course National Championships due to the 2006 FINA World Championships being held at Stanford from August 7 – 14, 2006.
2006 Long Distance Championships Awarded To:
One Hour Postal: OHIO
3000/6000 Y Postal: Rio Grande
5K/10K Postal: Lawrence, KS, River City Sharks
2 Mile Cable: Virginia Masters
1 Mile Open Water: OHIO
1-3 Mile Open Water: Clemson Aquatic Team (3K)
3-6 Mile Open Water: Chicago Masters (5k)
6+ Mile Open Water: Fort Collins (10K