Mark Schubert, Chuck Wielgus: The Separation of Power Within USA Swimming

Column by Brent Rutemiller

PHOENIX, Arizona, November 19. THE leaders in the sport of swimming understand that there should be a separation of power between the dryside and wetside of our sport. The wetside is governed by coaches and swimmers. The dryside is governed by officials and administrators. Bad things can happen when one side tries to impose its will on the other side. Such is the case today within USA Swimming as it struggles to makes sense out of the termination of its wetside leader, Mark Schubert, by the dryside leader, Chuck Wielgus.

Committees within USA Swimming approved the creation of a national team director in 1988 with the recommendation that the position be autonomous. Clearly, the intent was to make sure that any decision effecting coaches and athletes was not influenced by any administrative agenda, marketing decision, or sponsorship. It also ensured that any administrative decision was not influenced by coaches or athletes.

The balance of power concept worked from March 1988 until September 2010, when Schubert was suddenly asked to take a "paid leave of absence" by Wielgus. The reasons are still unclear and the entire coaching community wants answers now! (See petition to reinstate Schubert)

Between those two dates, USA Swimming racked up 149 Olympic medals; the most of any country on the planet. Meanwhile, USA Swimming's dryside has grown to be the wealthiest USA national governing body within the Olympic family. Something must have been working to account for such equal success.

The coaching community continues to rally behind its leader with hopes that more colleagues sign the petition requesting Schubert's immediate return.

Meanwhile, when USA Swimming's Board of Directors meets this weekend in New York, it needs to review its position of autonomy to ensure that there is equal power between the wet and dry sides of the sport.

Currently, only the executive director is hired by the board and is its only employee. The national team director is an employee of the executive director. There will never be a true separation of power until both are employees of the BOD and both answer directly to the board.

With one motion, one second, one vote count, USA Swimming's Board of Directors can easily rectify the situation by making the national team director a board-hired position.