Really, USATF?

by EJN Comments (0) Articles, Commentary

In early December, the USATF held its annual convention in Anaheim, CA. A couple of big pieces of news came out of that, and it should have dues paying members concerned for the future of the sport.

A good, all-encompassing read on what went down is out there. Jon Gugala published this just over a week ago:

USA Track & Field Will Do Whatever It Damn Well Wants

It’s a must read.

The first news to break was that Andrew Bumbalough was reinstated after being DQ’d…back in February. Too little, too late, USATF. The fact that it even happened was a total travesty. Then to leave Bumbalough hanging for so long was just plain wrong. The Bumbalough/Grunewald double whammy was a huge black eye for the sport. Even just the hint of impropriety on the part of chief USATF owner sponsor Nike threatens the integrity of the sport and everything should be done to avoid that.

Can you imagine something like that happening in football? Imagine that Tom Brady was leading the Pats on a last second comeback attempt against Drew Brees and the Saints. Say that Tom, an Under Armour athlete, throws what appears to be a TD to Gronk on fade route in the corner of the end zone as time expires. What if Nike had reps staked out by the replay booth? The TD is overturned and Brees, the Nike athlete, is now victorious.

Far fetched? Absolutely. Even if Nike had nothing to do with the call, it looks terrible. It’s safe to say that any major sport would not stand for even the hint of such shadiness. But USATF is oblivious. Whether or not Nike actually pressured the judges into DQ’ing athletes at the indoor championships is irrelevant. The fact that it appears that might’ve been the case already make it a colossal failure on the part of USATF.

Why did they wait so long? Who knows. One guess would be because the uproar over it would’ve died down and they might be able to slip their BS under the radar a little more easily. It seems to be more about damage control as opposed to doing the right thing.

For more on this, check out:

Bumbalough Reinstated Ten Months After USATF Indoor Championships

And for more background on it:

Why Was Andrew Bumbalough Disqualified in USA Indoor 3000?
The Inside Story Of The Andrew Bumbalough DQ

As if that all wasn’t bad enough, Stephanie Hightower had to go and prove to us all who she’s really looking out for as she supposedly is leading our crumbling organization.

The gist of what went down: Bob Hersh was elected as the USATF nominee to run for a spot on the IAAF council, besting Hightower by grabbing 85% of the vote. This was a vote amongst the dues paying USATF members. The board then overturned that outcome by an 11-1 margin to instead choose to send Hightower as our nominee. Hersh is well respected and has a lot of IAAF experience, while Hightower wants to name national champions via coin tosses. I wonder which one would serve us better?

There’s a lot of good info out there, here are a few links to get more familiar with the facts:

The Cost to Have a Voice at USATF

It’s admirable that she would go through that trouble on her own to get there and take part, but it’s so discouraging to see what the end result was. Why would anyone else want to do that in the future? It has to be worth our personal investments (time and money) to be a part of this.

A Call To Rescind The Anaheim Vote

Key point from the last one, about taking back the association:

“Ensure a governance structure free of cronyism and intimidation. Decisions and appointments must be based on principle alone. Too often, members are afraid to express their true opinions for fear of losing appointments or influence. I know this is true and those of you who have been involved for a long time know this is true. It must stop.”

Reid: Track’s Hightower should step up and step aside

Key part of Reid’s article:

“Hersh is so well respected internationally that he received more votes in the last IAAF election than Olympic champions Sebastian Coe, the London 2012 CEO, and Sergey Bubka. Either Coe or Bubka is expected to be elected IAAF president in 2015.

But from almost the minute she was elected in December 2008, Hightower has been angling behind the scenes for Hersh’s IAAF position. Until 2009 the IAAF nominee was selected by the full USATF membership. Hightower pushed for the 12-member USATF board to make the selection, and fought the compromise that eventually was implemented that required a two-thirds vote by the board to overturn the membership recommendation.”

From the USATF Board’s email to the members:

“As a board, we follow USATF procedures and make hard choices. We recognize that this choice was unpopular among those in attendance at the Annual Meeting, but we believe we made the right choice for the organization for the right reasons. We are optimistic that the coming year will continue the growth of the organization at all levels.”

The fact that they believe they made the right choice and that they are now optimistic about the future should have all of us scared.

Finally, from the Gugala piece mentioned at the beginning:

“As 2014 draws to a close, the frustration of U.S. athletes that once burned so hot in February has been crushed under weight of the USATF bureaucracy. Their voices are ignored; their plight is dismissed for some promised land that only USATF can see.”

I think many people around here can related to that last. Just check with any USATF-NE member that either resigned during their term or decided not to run for reelection. The problems are apparent throughout the entire organization and the members have to put up a fight to take control back.

So far what we’ve learned from all of this is that our voice doesn’t matter. The board will do as it damn well pleases. Hopefully they do the right thing here and reinstate the outcome of the members’ vote. Don’t hold your breath.

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