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Monday, September 13, 2010

Doug Logan Fired

About ten minutes ago I went to to look into membership for some kids I coach who are going to run Junior Olympic cross country this fall.  I saw on twitter that memberships are discounted to $10 (down from $39) from now until the end of the year.

And then I saw this.
USATF Board to hire new CEO

INDIANAPOLIS - The USA Track and Field Board of Directors has voted to pursue new leadership in its CEO position, bringing to a close the tenure of Doug Logan, who had been CEO of the federation since July 2008.

After a meeting over the weekend in Las Vegas, the Board voted to pursue leadership change.
Yep, they fired him.

Phil Hersh, one of the few full-time Olympic writers still around, had an immediate comment:
You can bet the U.S. Olympic Committee isn't happy with this move, even if it unlikely to intervene.

As I wrote in a Blog last week, it is foolhardy to dismiss Logan after just two years on the job. And, unless he was fired for cause, USATF will have owe him a severance in the vicinity of $1 million. That would be ironic, since sources have told me a reason the USATF board was unhappy with Logan owed to what it felt was his inability to bring in new sponsors.

Further irony: Last week, the international track federation named Logan to one of its committees.
My initial attempts to reach Logan and Hightower were unsuccessful. Stay tuned.
There are the official reasons for his dismissal, and then there are the real reasons.  I'd have to guess his fate was sealed when he convened the Project 30 Committee and it issued its report.  The nine committee members were, by design, all outside the USATF power structure.  One of those was Carl Lewis, a man probably more unwelcome by USATF leadership than any man on the planet given his long-running pointed (and accurate) criticisms of said leadership.  The report itself advocated an athlete's union, the kind of thing guaranteed to piss off management wherever you are.

The union idea never got off the ground, but Logan's biggest transgression was probably ending the National Relay Program.  It was a boondoggle and a failure, but it was a cash cow for Brooks Johnson, the closest ally of USATF President Stephanie Hightower.  She's a career politician, and they don't get to positions of power by forgetting when someone crosses them.  It just took a while before the time was right to rile up the board of directors.  Make no mistake, if she didn't want him gone he'd still be in the job.  Ironically, fixing the relay situation is likely to be Logan's biggest (and probably only) lasting legacy.

I'm not an insider.  I'm just a fan who reads a lot.  But I do work for a large urban school district and I've seen this kind of BS before.  Does it surprise you to know that Hightower was president of the board of the Columbus Public Schools?  Me neither.  As Mark Twain said over a century ago, "In the first place God made idiots.  Then He made school boards."  And the USATF board.

Executive Directors / CEOs of track and field in the USA...
2008-2010 Doug Logan
1997-2008 Craig Masback
1970-1997 Ollan Cassell
Let's see of the next one lasts over a year.

LATE EDIT:  Joe Battaglia at Universal Sports has his own speculation.  He said "looking back on the brief Logan era, you would have to give him a grade of incomplete", but also notably cited the 2012 Olympic Trials marathons being awarded to Houston over Boston or New York as a possible factor as well. Again, good for USATF (it was a significantly better bid overall) but ticked off power brokers like the NYRRC's Mary Wittenberg.


Martin said...

I agree with you, I think the two things that may have gotten him fired were his main successes: the relay program and the trials (I like the idea of spreading the sport to new centers...same reason don't think Eugene should host USATFs every year). However, no one seems to mention his real shortcomings like the fact that Project 30 focused more on the short term and getting medals in two years than it did on helping the sport in the long run by developing coaches, training centers, youth programs, etc. That would have been a better investment than raising money to give Bryan Clay (already a gold medalist) a Project 30 grant. No disrespect to the guy, but I don't know if that is the best use of money and that is about all Logan has to show for his Project 30.

The Track & Field Superfan said...

Once again, you're right. Investing in high-quality coaching is THE way to long-term success. I always thought Project 30 was money-based, in that US Olympic dominance was likely to raise TV viewing numbers and attract sponsors (see: Michael Phelps).

But of course there are coaching "favorites" at USATF. I don't know this for a fact, but every organization that depends on underpaid or volunteer experts has them. You bring in the best and that displaces the comfortable...and that gets you on the hot seat. It's a no-win situation.

I've read every book Arthur Lydiard ever wrote and he said again and again that if you invest in the coaches, everything else takes care of itself. I'm sure whoever brought him in to Finland in the late 60s got a lot of flack for it...until the medals started rolling in.

And that's USATF's major barrier to self-improvement: national team performance will NEVER be so bad as to require wholesale house-cleaning.

Martin said...

That is a good point about how Project 30 might jump start things...a few extra medals may bring in sponsors which could provide seed funding for some larger project. I am not sure if they thought that far in advance, but it would have been a creative idea.

However, if they are looking for the next Michael Phelps (or Usain Bolt), it will be coming from the sprints. Maybe I'm wrong, but anyone capable of being that big of a start in 2012 (e.g. Gay or Felix or some other sprinter) already has the resources they need. They are making big bucks, have private coaches (rather than USATF associated), etc. The push was to win medals in the field events which probably won't draw in big sponsors.

Like Lydiard, I had an influence in Hal Connolly. He coached Olympians throughout the 80s and 90s, but realized that wasn't going to cause any drastic are just helping a handful of athletes. Start coaching coaches (which he turned his focus to) and everything multiplies.

pjm said...

...and yet USATF gutted the Coaches' Education program recently, which strikes me as odd.