Rob Butcher Stepping Down As USMS Executive Director, Will Run Swim Across America

Rob Butcher
Photo Courtesy: U.S. Masters Swimming

United States Masters Swimming Executive Director Rob Butcher will step down at the end of the year after nine years leading the organization to record growth and increased exposure across the country. He’ll remain in the swimming community for his next adventure as CEO of Swim Across America.

Butcher made the announcement to the USMS board of directors and his staff at the Sarasota, Fla., headquarters this week. Because he’s not leaving until December 31, he still will attend next week’s United States Aquatic Sports convention in Kansas City. He’ll also be involved in helping select his replacement.

“I have a vested interest in this,” he told Swimming World when asked about his reasons for staying with USMS through December. “I hired almost all of (the staff in Sarasota). I look for USMS to become an even bigger brand. (The current) 65,000 members could become 165,000.”

Butcher was presented with the Swim Across America opportunity when Janel Jorgensen decided to leave after 10 years to spend more time with family. After meeting with members of the SAA organization and reviewing the company goals, it was something he could not pass up.

Swim Across America is a nonprofit entity that organizes several pool and open water events throughout the United States, with the goal of raising money for local hospitals that specialize in treating people with cancer. Almost all of the money raised in each event goes directly to the hospital to fund research or treatment. Thousands of people have participated in a Swim Across America since 1987, raising more than $60 million, according to the company’s website.

“USMS has been very fortunate to have Rob Butcher as our Executive Director since 2008. We truly appreciate all of his many contributions and have benefited from his outstanding leadership,” said U.S. Masters Swimming President Nadine Day. “Swim Across America is a great organization and has many ties to USMS. I would like to wish Rob and Swim Across America a very successful future.”

Butcher came to USMS in 2008 from professional car racing, where he was the chief marketing officer for the World Racing Group and served as marketing director for the International Speedway Corporation. He helped increase the NASCAR and Indy Racing brands through sponsorships and partnerships with major corporations.

Butcher has plenty of swimming experience. He swam for Georgia Southern University in the early 1990s, and competed in the 2000 Olympic Trials in the 100 breaststroke. He hopes to continue as a Masters swimmer, especially now that he will be able to compete in Masters meets without being “on the clock.”

Butcher made an immediate impact as executive director at USMS. He moved the organization’s headquarters to Sarasota and created a full-time staff to revitalize the USMS brand. Not only did he help create a new logo, but his team redesigned the USMS website. That allowed members to find places to swim across the country, track meet results and log workout distances through the new Go the Distance program.

One of the things Butcher hoped to do in his time as executive director was grow active membership to 50,000 athletes. He managed to do that in 2009 after just one year on the job. That number continued to grow as Butcher and his staff worked to make USMS visible to several demographics. Through the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation, adult learn-to-swim programs flourished around the country, bringing new members to the organization. The increased exposure was not missed by college students who were not part of NCAA teams, who flocked to Masters swimming to continue their athletic careers.

Marketing the sport was another goal for Butcher. Using collaborations with Olympic champions Rowdy Gaines and Misty Hyman, he helped get the word out about the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation, as well as the annual High Performance Camp in Colorado. USMS was also a sponsoring organization of the SwimToday campaign, an advertising initiative to bring people of all ages and abilities into swimming.

One of Butcher’s top accomplishments was securing the Qwest Center as the site of the 2012 USMS summer nationals, held three days after the Olympic Trials. Participation at Masters nationals continues to hover close to 2,000, and Butcher was almost always racing while doing his executive director duties.

Full press release from Swim Across America:
Swim Across America (“SAA”), the leading non-profit company in the swimming industry raising money for cancer research, prevention and treatment through swimming-related events, is proud to announce Rob Butcher as its new President and CEO. Butcher takes over January 1, 2016 for Janel Jorgensen McArdle who is stepping down as CEO to spend more time with her husband and twin boys.

Butcher, 43, has served the past seven years as Executive Director for U.S. Masters Swimming. He joined USMS in 2008 and was charged with transforming the volunteer- operated non-profit to a professionally managed organization. Under his leadership, USMS rebranded itself with an inclusive identity, developed SWIMMER magazine and as the trusted resources for Masters Swimming, partnered with Fortune 500 brands Marriott and Nationwide, developed the USMS Masters Coach Certification and Adult Learn-to-Swim instructor programs, focused the Swimming Saves Lives Foundation to provide learn-to-swim opportunities for adults, and hosted the Pan American Masters Championship. Since Butcher joined USMS, membership has increased more than 50% and revenue has tripled to $3.6 million.

Since its inception in 1987, SAA has grown from a single event in Nantucket, MA, to hundreds of events across the country, raising more than $60 million dollars for cancer research, prevention and treatment. Major research beneficiaries include the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in NYC, Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Cancer Support Team of Westchester Country, Children’s Hospital of New York-Presbyterian, the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center in Dallas, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco, Women & Infants Hospital in Rhode Island, AFLAC Cancer & Blood Disorders Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy in Stamford, CT, Mercy Medical Center in Long Island, Cold Spring Harbor Lab in NY, Fighting Chance in Long Island, and Children’s Hospital & Research Center in Oakland, CA. Without SAA, much of their research would be left with no monetary support.

“Janel became our CEO in 2005 when we were volunteer run,” said Hugh Curran, Chairman of SAA Board of Directors. “She brought passion, credibility and leadership that took us from four events, raising $2 million dollars to 18-open water swims and hundreds of pool events, raising almost $7 million this year. We have tremendous momentum and our beneficiaries are making progress in developing cures for cancer. We were looking for a leader who could build on the great work Janel and her team have accomplished. We wanted someone with energy and an entrepreneurial spirit, with experience leading volunteers and a passion for the SAA mission. Rob was at the top of our list and we are incredibly pleased he will be leading us.”

“I participated in my first SAA event when I was a teenager,” said McArdle, a 1988 U.S. Olympian. “The lives changed and saved through the mission of SAA is what has motivated me the past decade. My last goal before stepping down as CEO was to ensure our future success by not just finding a CEO but recruiting the very best leader who could carry us forward. We found that person in Rob.”

“My grandmother and step-mom were both cancer survivors. My mom, my hero, lost her fight to appendix cancer in 2007. Finding a cure for cancer is a cause that resonates in my soul,” said Butcher. “In addition to a mission that I wholeheartedly believe in, the opportunity to be based in Charlotte close to my family attracted me to join SAA. I am incredibly appreciative to the SAA board and especially Janel for the trust they are placing in me.”

Butcher’s selection as the CEO comes as SAA is expanding and growing. The swimming community and generations of Olympians have embraced the SAA mission, with attendance and donations increasing every year. With a business model directly impacting local markets, the proceeds are creating breakthroughs and new cures in the fight against cancer.

“USMS has been very fortunate to have Rob Butcher as our Executive Director since 2008. We truly appreciate all of his many contributions and have benefited from his outstanding leadership,” said U.S. Masters Swimming President Nadine Day. “Swim Across America is a great organization and has many ties to USMS. I would like to wish Rob and Swim Across America a very successful future.”

“I am endebted to USMS for the opportunity it provided me,” said Butcher. “It has been a privilege to lead an amazing team in the USMS national office. Their servant service attitude is what created an enviable level of success for USMS; and I know they will continue to encourage and inspire adults to swim.”

Butcher is a graduate of Georgia Southern University. He competed in the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials. He and his wife Allison have twin boys.

1 comment

  1. avatar
    Bill v.

    Headline was missing three words at the end: “into the ground”.
    I will never support Swim Across America again.