COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., Feb. 19. AFTER serving more than eleven years as Executive Director for USA Water Polo, Bruce Wigo has resigned his post.
Wigo will continue to serve in other capacities with the organization while pursuing other interests that have been put on hold during his tenure with USWP.
"Bruce was brought on back in 1991 to help bail out our organization when we were in deep financial peril," said USWP President Richard Foster. "He did a
fantastic job of getting us back on track and going beyond to help with the growth of the sport both domestically and internationally."
Wigo joined USWP in the early 1980s as a volunteer coach for the Saturday morning program at the New York Athletic Club. From there, he moved on to become a referee at the high school and collegiate levels in the area. But his pursuit of a career in law drew him south to Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) in July of 1991. It was then that he was approached by Foster to fill the
position of Executive Director. At the time, USWP was faced with a budget deficit of over $220,000 on a budget of just under $1 million.
"I thought at the time that I could help, and thought it would be fun for six months or so," said Wigo.
"When I took the job, I was aware that the average life span for Executive Directors in the Olympic sports was about two and a half years. I never could have imagined at the time that I would be here eleven years later."
But it wasn’t all calm waters from there for Wigo. He worked for no salary for the first three months in the position and then accepted a 50% pay cut from where he was previously. But seeing the sport take off was reward enough for Wigo.
"It was something like a bankruptcy workout," Wigo recalled. "Most of my time was spent calling creditors and prospective sponsors asking them to work with us. Some of my fondest memories of the past ten years are the all-nighters with Barbara Kalbus, Rich Foster and others trying to figure things out. Among my best memories are landing Alamo Rent-A-Car and working with them with a front-loaded sponsorship package, bringing Speedo back into our sport and receiving word from FINA that women's water polo was officially in the Olympics."
"Bruce made significant contributions in the overall administration of our organization," said Terence Ma, Vice President of USA Water Polo. "He’s helped elevate us to a more professional status, not only at home, but internationally as well."
During his stretch with USWP, the organization: saw the budget grow from $0.9 million in 1990 to $3.1 million in 2002; increased member registrations from 8,700 to 30,000-plus; and increased annual corporate sponsorships fromunder $25,000 in 1990 to over $400,000 in 1996.
Wigo also developed marketing partnerships with Alamo Rent A Car, Busch Entertainment, Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, Fetzer Vineyards, The Gap, John Hancock Financial Services, Kodak, Mikasa Sports, NationsBank, National Safety Associates, General Motors, Ralph Lauren, Reebok, Sensormatic, Speedo, United Airlines, United Parcel Service and Xerox.
A notorious hard worker, Wigo still sees the difficult road ahead.
"As for the future of USWP, I have great concerns," said Wigo. "USA Water Polo and many of the Olympic National Governing Bodies are under-funded and
face very difficult financial futures. The Olympic Committee can no longer be relied upon to fund our international programs and we need to do more on
our own to raise funds. At the same time, water polo in Europe is attracting more money and attention to the sport. If we are to remain internationally
competitive, we must find the key to organizational financial stability."
Now, Wigo has the chance to do a bit of catching up.
"My plan now is to work on personal projects and the career that I put on hold for the six months eleven years ago," said Wigo. "I still plan to continue coaching with Ft. Lauderdale Water Polo, where my twin sons Drac and Janson play, and will remain involved at some level with USWP."
"Bruce has done wonders for our sport,” said Foster.
"Now, he’ll have some time to spend with his family and pursue other interests. However, he will still work with us on our international relations and will continue to be a major contributor for our organization as we move forward into the 21st