USATF proposes USA-Jamaica dual meets in 2009: Understanding the personal style of Doug Logan, by Larry Eder

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Since July 2008, when Doug Logan was unanimously selected as the new CEO of USA Track & Field, he has shown that he is a) a brilliant writer, b) deftly uses media to the sport and his benefit, c) has used his personal charisma to keep the infighting to a minimum and d) gives his staff a wide reign in their day to day activities and, most importantly, e) understands our sports' current zeitgeist: track & field is about one thing-head to head competition, and finally f) realizes that getting the sport in the news is half of the game: Andy Warhol spoke of everyone's fifteen minutes of fame-Doug Logan wants to get track & field to have a daily couple minutes of our mindshare-and with this proposal, he did just that.

After careful consideration of the press release noted below, and checking with some of the major stakeholders in our sport, I have a new appreciation for Mr. Logan. This press release, and the release of his letter to Mr. McCook, upset many of the people who read it the first time. The facts are that Mr. Logan had not contacted key stakeholders in the sport, those who would play a part in making this proposal a reality. But, in my mind, that was not the raison d'etre for Logan's missive, and particularly, for its timing.


Logan has proposed a USA-Jamaica dual meet series, how does that become more than a proposal? photo courtesy of PhotoRun.net.

The press release is the work of Jill Geer, who has deftly guided communications at USATF for nearly a decade. It is my belief, however, that her best work has come under the new administration. Ms. Geer is allowed to do what she does best: look at the big picture, deal with the likes of me and other media on sensitive issues, and, with the able assistance of her team in Indy, provide current, well-written information in a timely manner.

Mr. Logan, in my estimation, is doing several things, and this is his personal style: he is sending a clear message that, as the CEO of USATF, he has a plan for the sport, and it needs to be considered. He is also testing the waters for such a daring proposal, and he is, playing brinksmanship politics. This is not a negative, and in this day and age, a skill that actually should be admired. My concern is not with the action, but the process.

Doug Logan is the head of the most successful sports federation in Olympic sports history, period. The USOC knows that track & field is the ONLY sport where athletes can consistently make a living in between Olympic years. Logan has a sport, with a very successful development program: 80,000 junior high, high school, college and club coaches, nearly 4 million athletes, and 30 million plus potential fans who walk, and run, with seven million of them running faces each year. No other country in the world, with the exception of China, could assemble such a program. Our access to sponsors and our unfettered promise is why the USOC has been all over USA Track & Field for these past years. This is about, to use the vernacular, dead presidents, Benjamins, good old fashioned U.S. dollars.

The key is, how to channel those positives into sports marketing success and medals at international competition. Well, truth be told, the success of our athletes in international competition starts in that physical education test where a young kid does the mile run, or the thoughtful high school coach, who takes a young discus thrower aside and tells them, if they work hard, for the next decade, they could be an Olympian--that happens each and every day in this country. Youth athletics, master athletics, road running is all about how our sport reaches out to the greater community, and influences their styles, their activities. Consider that 80 percent of running shoes sales in North America (total running shoe sales are just over $7.5 billion) never run in those shoes.

Doug Logan has a great opportunity right now. He has a window. If he got behind physical activity, encouraging schools to do daily mile runs or mile walks, using our top athletes to do free messages on TV, on You Tube, putting USATF at the forefront of encouraging activity, and helping cut health costs among the young, USATF would be seen as a patriotic champion of our society. Running and walking cuts down on carbon footprints, cuts down obesity, diabetes, and can be done, anywhere, for very little money. Honest talk, consistent talk, could make USATF soar in the minds of the general public. No one is going to look at Barry Bonds as a role model, but getting a run in each day, with spokespeople like Tyson Gay, Chris Lukesic, Alyson Felix, Ryan Hall, Leonel Manzano and Kara Goucher would make the audience take notice.

The proposal about a Jamaica-US dual is just what it is-a proposal. Testing the waters. It is a good idea, but, in order for it to have some legs, the stakeholders in the sport should have been addressed.

After a few phone calls this morning, I spoke to Mark Bossardet, a good friend and former Nike and Reebok sports marketer. I asked him, how something like this could be accomplished and he said it best: " At the end of the day, we all love our sport and want it to succeed. We need to look at the big picture."

My suggestion would have been to reach out to the managers of the athletes you want, in this case, Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay. Then go to both the Nike Pre and Reebok New York and determine if there is a way to include several of the proposed events in their two meets. That gives the Jamaica-US dual a start in 2009, and then, build into 2010. For our sport to be taken seriously, we have to start learning how to play well together.

Starting something new under every new administration just has not worked and has antagonized both the media and potential sponsors, negating our sports chances of gaining real marketing dollars. Our sport should not be dreaming of thirty million dollars a year, USATF's yearly budget should be looking at $50-$75 million per year. We have, through our actions and lack of professionalism, confused the marketplace with disparate ideas and unrealistic concepts.

At this time, our sport is in the midst of some very exciting changes. The Diamond League, the reorganization of USA Track & Field, a new CEO for said organization, a new President, and starting this weekend, a new board of directors for USA Track & Field. The USOC has just changed CEOs, and the 2016 Olympic site vote is coming up soon, with Chicago 2016 victory not a fait accompli.

While it may be easier on first notice to draw a line in the sand and demand recognition that the federation has temporal powers, the prudent CEO engages the various stakeholders and brings them on message, giving them recognition of their role in past success, part of what they want in the present and reserving what he needs for future success. In this case, there was no communication, period. In fact, that was not Mr. Logan's goal-he was airing a proposal, nothing more, nothing less. What remains to be seen is how Doug Logan, or his designated representative, works with the current stakeholders in the sport, and most importantly, how it plays in the media. One does not have to be best friends to have a relationship that is both respectful and honest.

Our sport in general, USATF, as represented by Doug Logan in particular, has a challenge ahead--how to strengthen its ties to the sport, without alienating the athletes, agents, meet directors, coaches, sports marketers and potential audience.

The American public is bright. They have always seen track athletes as Olympians, 24/7, 365 days a year, every day between Summer Olympic games. They love competition, tight relays, tight races, come from behind throws in the shot put, but we do not sell our sport like that! To the U.S. sports public, the Olympics are a sacred trust, and track & field is the sport which MUST be held to a higher level, because athletics equals Olympian, like no other. For nearly 108 years, we have not understood that, it is time for our sport to pull its proverbial head out of the sand.

The Jamaica-US dual meet proposal is brilliant! But, here is a big secret-there should be others! US vs Russia, US vs China, US vs GB! However, until the stakeholders buy in, and that can be done and done quickly and honestly, our chance of exciting, sports television featuring track & field is null and void. There is a time for dual meets early or late in the season, and they could be huge, however, doing this right takes time, money and support.

Doug Logan has made the proposal, now, lets see how he makes the proposal a reality.
His style is such, that several of these proposals will go out. Some will stick, some will not. If Doug Logan can make a few proposals stick, with the support of the sport, USA Track & Field will prosper.

USATF proposes USA-Jamaica dual meets in 2009

INDIANAPOLIS -M USA Track & Field this week proposed that the world's two sprinting powerhouses challenge each other in a unique, dual-meet format that could see some of track and field's superstars match up like never before.

USATF has formally invited Jamaica to engage in a home-and-home series in 2009 that that will pit the two nations' sprinters and hurdlers against each other in head-to-head, team-scored competition.

As described in a letter hand-delivered on Saturday morning by USATF CEO Doug Logan to Jamaican NACAC Area Group Representative Neville "Teddy" McCook, the meets would feature male and female athletes in the 100, 200 and 400 meters; 100/110m hurdles and 400m hurdles; long jump; and the 4x100, 4x400 and sprint medley relays. One competition would be in the United States, with the other taking place on Jamaican soil. Dates of the potential challenge meets are proposed for May and June.

"It was obvious to ev
eryone that with the rise of your country's great sprinters and hurdlers, a compelling rivalry between Jamaica and the United States had developed," Logan wrote to McCook. "These competitions would offer a means to showcase our phenomenal strengths to the NACAC region and the world, as well as offering each of our nations' fans the chance to see the very best competition track and field has to offer, on home soil."

Logan delivered the letter to McCook at the NACAC Cross Country Championships, held Saturday at Chain of Lakes Park in Titusville, Fla.

The proposal comes on the heels of World Championship and Olympic competition in which American and Jamaican sprinters dominated. At the 2007 IAAF World Championships in Osaka, Americans won the men's 100, 200 and 400 meters, sweeping the longer race, as well as the women's 200, both relays, women's 100 hurdles and men's 400 hurdles. Jamaica won the women's 100, as well as numerous silver and bronze medals. All told, an American or Jamaican won 10 of 12 medals in the men's and women's 100 and 200 meters and went 1-2 in three of the four relay events.

At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, it was Jamaica in the driver's seat. Led by global athlete of the year Usain Bolt, Jamaicans won the men's and women's 100 and 200 meters, including a sweep in the women's 100. Bolt broke the world record in the 100 and 200, and the 4x100 relay on which he ran third leg also broke the world record. Jamaica won the women's 400 hurdles in Olympic record time with the United States second, while Americans swept the men's 400m and 400 hurdles, won two medals in the men's 110m hurdles and took gold in the women's 100 hurdles. Collectively, USA and Jamaica won 11 of 12 medals in the 100 and 200; 16 of 18 in the 100 through 400; and five of six medals in the 400m hurdles.

Please see below for the full text of the letter from Mr. Logan to Mr. McCook.

******

Dear Teddy;

I was among the millions of captivated observers in Beijing who watched as Jamaican short sprinters dominated their events at the Olympic Games. It was obvious to everyone that with the rise of your country's great sprinters and hurdlers, a compelling rivalry between Jamaica and the United States had developed. This rivalry showed signs of ramping up at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and began in earnest in 2005 when Asafa Powell broke the men's 100m world record. Whether it has been Powell-Gatlin, Campbell-Felix or Bolt-Gay, it has been these rivalries that have captivated the imaginations of track fans the world over.

As the IAAF indicated when it announced its new Diamond League, it is rivalries and head-to-head competition that will do the most to increase the popularity of track and field around the world. And of course, our sprinters are not ready to concede Jamaican dominance. Let us not forget that less than two years ago, it was the United States on top of three of the four short sprints and both sprint relays at the 2007 World Championships.

We have all seen how wildly successful and popular USA vs. The World at the Penn Relays has become, thanks to the USA-Jamaica rivalry at this event and the good-natured "competition" between our countries' fans at Franklin Field. All these factors lead me to believe that feeding the USA-Jamaica rivalry would be a thrilling addition to the Athletics schedule, not just for our athletes and fans, but for global Athletics.

On behalf of USA Track & Field, and with the greatest excitement, I propose a USA-Jamaica Challenge that will pit our countries in two head-to-head, home-and-home team scoring competitions in the spring of 2009. I would ask that you convey this challenge to the esteemed President Aris and General Secretary Gayle of the JAAA. The concept of this challenge is briefly outlined as follows:

Dates: Projected to be in May and June, nations' schedules permitting.
Sites: One in the east or southeast United States; the other in Jamaica.
Events: Men's and women's 100m, 200m, 400m, 110/100mH, 400mH, long jump and 4x100m, 4x400m & Sprint
Medley Relays.
Competitors: 3 or 4 per country in each individual event and 2 teams per country in relays.
Scoring: Cumulative scoring meets.
Financials: To be discussed following preliminary agreement to compete.
Television: Conceivably 2 one-hour live shows, either stand-alone or as part of
USATF Visa Championship Series show(s).

I think you'll agree that these competitions would offer a means to showcase our phenomenal strengths to the NACAC region and the world, as well as offering each of our nations' fans the chance to see the very best competition track and field has to offer, on home soil.

I earnestly thank you and your country for entertaining this challenge. We have before us a tremendous opportunity to serve the sport, our athletes and fans. I am hopeful that through good planning and promotions, we will be able to stage these potentially ground-breaking meets. I eagerly await your reply.

Warm personal regards,

Douglas G. Logan
General Secretary and Chief Executive Officer

For more on USATF, please click http://www.usatf.org

For more on the IAAF, please click http://www.iaaf.org

For more on running in North America, please click http://www.runningnetwork.com

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