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Task Force Calls for Major Changes in USOC -- April 13, 2003

By Phillip Whitten

FORT WORTH, Texas, April 13. AN internal U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) task force recommended yesterday a radical new governance structure that would reduce the organization's volunteer leadership from 123 members and a 23-member executive committee to a nine-person board.

The task force estimated the orgaanization would save one million dollars by adopting the sleek, new structure, but this writer estimates the savings would likely be at least $3 million.

The task force is one of two working on the issue of USOC reform. The second task force, appointed by Senators John McCain (Rep., Arizona) and Ben Nighthorse Campbell (Rep., Colorado), has yet to make its recommendations. That "external" task force has as its co-Chair Donald Fehr, a current member of the USOC Executive Committee and head of the Baseball Players Union. In that latter role he has sought to defeat or weaken proposals for meaningful drug-testing in professional baseball, an Olympic sport. The Senate-appointed committee is due to make its proposals on June 30.

Of the nine directors on the proposed new board, four would be required to have had no ties to the USOC in the past two years. The National Governing Bodies (NGBs) for individual sports would have two slots as would the Athletes Advisory Council (AAC), and a U.S. member of the International Olympic Committee would have the ninth slot.

The AAC, a group representing athletes; and the NGB Council, representing the entities that provide training and coaching for athletes, indicated support for the proposal.


Streamlined Mission
The internal task force suggested a streamlined mission for the organization that, in its quest fort political correctness, has included the American Legion, the Boys Scouts, the Armed Forces and advocates of competitive ballroom dancing. That mission should be to assist potential US Olympic and Paralympic athletes in their quest to win medals in the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

This "back to basics" movement is long overdue.

In calling for a smaller, more concentrated structure, the task force sought to reduce the turf battles that have plagued the USOC, and to end the culture of entitlement by every vested interest in particular sports or purported sports. The nine-member board would have a chair. There would also be a paid CEO who would not be a member of the board.

Under the proposal proferred yesterday by the internal task force, most of the organizations represented on the current 123-member board of directors would be part of a new "Olympic Assembly," which would play only an advisory role in setting USOC policy.

Next Steps
Yesterday's proposal is only the first step toward reform. The next step is for it to be considered at the next scheduled meeting of the board of directors in October.

The proposal may face opposition from the International Olympic Committee, itself, however. Anita DeFrantz, one of three US members of the IOC (the others are Bob Ctvrtlik and Jim Easton), pointed out that the IOC Charter "unambiguously" requires all IOC members to serve on their nation's board.