The FinalSprint.com has a 7 part series on "Dysfunction Run Amuck" which is on the USATF Board of Directors and the upcoming election of a new president of USATF.
I finally gave the series a read after having a few people email me about it.
I'm not really sure what to think of the series. While the series perhaps points to some troubling things going on within USATF, overall I thought it wasn't very well written and didn't do a good job of pointing out what was wrong.
No bid contracts for the Olympic Trials and middle school bickering between board members were treated on the same level. Some allegations were backed up with evidence and some were lacking evidence. At times the piece acts like its trying to be objective, yet at others it seems slanted against Stephanie Hightower.
Either way with the USATF election this weekend it's worth a read. The series is a good start at looking at some of the problems but is an incomplete read.
Let me briefly give my impressions on the series:
The way I see it is the USATF board has its problems and the USOC is making them streamline it. I expect many of the problems to
hopefully go away when the USATF board is streamlined according to the USOC mandate. This is parts 1-3 of the series.
I'm not sure you need to read them if you understand the USOC is making USATF reform its board.
In part IV it talks about financial mismanagement.
In 2004, the Men's Track and Field Committee had a budget of $28,000 and spent $74,536. The women's committee had the same budget but spent $54,497. This amount of overspending is uncalled for and a serious breach of responsibility.
Yet it is given the same amount of space and seems to be treated with the same severity as overspending in 2007 by $1,105 for the Men's Committee, and $293 for the Women's Committee. Those amounts are trivial and don't really seem like a big concern.
The rest of Part IV talks about people trying to get upgraded rooms and flights, and seems more like high school gossip. USATF seemed to deny the requests and the main point I took is that USATF just shouldn't even bother with the requests and should have a more effective way of saying no. But because someone asked for a $700 ticket instead of $300 one because it was a direct flight isn't a big concern. Every organization should have a policy of dealing with this.
Part V talks about how Board Members drop the race card all the time. Brooks Johnson gets the most criticism but he's leaving USATF, but it seems a bit sad in today's age if people automatically assume criticism of black board members equals racism. The report takes the tone that USATF Long distance guy Jim Estes backs the race card people which personally seems a bit troubling. The report also seemed to indicate the USATF national office has a problem with Estes, yet I thought Estes was an employee of the national office and hired by Craig Masback. Someone can email me to explain that dynamic because I wasn't really sure of it.
But perhaps the most direct accusation of the entire series was in this part. It claims a member of the USATF board approached the Final Sprint Editor Adam Jacobs at the Chicago Marathon and said they would expose him as a racist if he did not stop his series on the dysfunction within USATF. Jacobs says the person told him ""Be careful and stop digging into my friends and I on the Board because we can very easily make you out to be a racist … We've done it before and to people with many times your level of influence."
The strange thing to me is that this is a very serious allegation, was reportedly made directly to Jacobs, yet Jacobs does not name who the person is. This seems to me to be poor journalism. He is not protecting a source as the allegation was directly made to him. Either name the person or don't mention the allegation at all. I thought the whole point of the series was to expose corruption within USATF. Yet this serious allegation is given a pass because the person is not named. It might as well be made up as far as I'm concerned without a name.
Part VI has a few serious allegations that I would focus the most on if it was my series instead of the middle school antics of the board. Apparently USATF presidential candidate Stephanie Hightower and British meet promoter Ian Stewart have an intimate relationship. The report says that it was announced that Birmingham, England would be the US team's base for the 2012 Games and the deal was sealed by Ian Stewart. The problem is the report says the USATF national office knew nothing of the deal (but here is a point where the report does not present any evidence saying they did not know of the deal. A serious allegation needs to be backed up in the report). The good news is the deal isn't binding, but it seems to be a serious breach if Hightower is negotiating deals she's not allowed to do to reward a man she's having a relationship with. But the problem is the report left out the evidence on the USATF office not knowing about the deal.
The other serious thing worth looking at in Part VI is the no bid awarding of the 2012 Olympic Trials to Eugene. The report looks into possible conflicts of interest but does not say what the process is for awarding the Trials and what the bylaws say about whether there should be a bid, etc. Personally, it seems like a total lack of judgement to award the trials without a bid. Even if Eugene is the bets candidate for 2012, making them bid for it could likely extract more value for USATF. Don't give away something for free. Fortunately, the USATF CEO has to sign off on it and it appears USATF head Logan hasn't done so yet, "The contracts remain unsigned on my desk, I will tell you that, and very shortly, as I've addressed some of these other issues that have come to the fore with regard to high performance and other issues, you'll see a decisive determination made on my part and I can assure you that at the end of the day, people will understand that we've dealt with prospective"
So that's my quick synopsis of the series. I'm glad someone is looking into it, but felt the series did not do a good job on focusing on what was important or in sourcing some of its allegations. Not all misdeeds are of the same level yet the series didn't draw many distinctions in severity.
Plus I couldn't tell if it was trying to be objective or what, but the fact that it threw a racist allegation out against a board member but did not name them diminished its credibility with me.
Overall, I'm not sure what to think. Stephanie Hightower seemed to be the target of the piece. Personally, it seems like the piece showed there was enough dysfunction on the board that it might be best to start with a clean slate, especially with the president. But then I read NYRR head Mary Wittenberg and Deena Kastor, two people I respect, are backing Hightower so I realize there are two sides to any story. Fortunately, I figure the CEO is more powerful than the president, and I can see the sport succeeding without USATF driving its success.
Go here to read the report: