Listening to USATF Leadership, by Larry Eder


Doug Logan is media friendly, that is definite. The new CEO of USA Track & Field has said that he is never off the record, and that while he is giving you information, as he sees it now, he might, a few times a year, have to update that information. Pretty darn honest, I would say. And quite savvy, in this day and age.

Hats off to Doug Logan for re-signing Nike as the key sponsor for USA Track & Field. The fact is, that USATF is one of the most valuable sports sponsorships in all of global sport. The other fact is that Nike recognizes that and will never let that sponsorship go away. Companies have tried, and Nike holds the trump card-a first right of refusal.

But how does one value the sponsorship? In the last go round, a footwear company that uses three stripes offered to sponsor USATF, and the bidding was down to the last hour. Nike had the right to match or surpass a competitor's bid, and Nike did that.

In this negotiations, if we get the information correct, while the negotiations, per Doug Logan, were " Intense, difficult, but, in the end rewarding." Logan noted some substantial increases in sponsorship, especially in the area of the Project 30 concerns, such as providing support for athletes who leave the safety of university life for the tough world of professional sports, which is what track & field is trying to become.

Logan also noted that Nike would sponsor the US versus Jamaica meet that he threw up this past Winter. In the TAFWA meeting, Doug Logan told the assembled writers that a technical committee would visit Jamaica in the next two weeks. He also noted that the format would be Kingston first, then New York city, with one hour TV format and no events longer than 800 meters.

Nike is a seventeen billion company with a running tradition. One fifth of its revenue comes from running. While Nike sponsors teams from Manchester United to major federations around the world who use their footwear and apparel. In the 2008 Olympics, Nike made shoes for 32 of the Olympic sports.

John Capriotti, the Nike's Director of Athletics , is a smart man. He is also a former athlete, and former coach. In many ways, with his budget, he is one of the most important people in our sport. At the end of the day, John will do what is good for his employer. And that is the Swoosh. It has benefited Nike to help USATF pulls it proverbial head out of its backside over the past two decades. There were times, that anyone sane would have wanted to know how any sponsor could have tolerated the lack of professionalism from Indy. Nike, and the other footwear companies in our biz, have put millions into our sport to help it grow.

Doug Logan and Stephanie Hightower, the CEO and President of USA Track & Field, spoke of accountability and changing a corporate culture. They admitted that this takes time. Logan is giving his team more room to manage, without micro managing them-that is good. The team in Indy will be taking a more active role in the management of the sport. It was clear today, that USATF will go to a more professional model as opposed to volunteers making major decisions.

The appointment of Benita Fitzgerald Mosely is smart, professional and an example of that accountability. As Stephanie said to TAFWA, if a baton drops, if a problem happens, the buck stops with Benita. Benita Fitzgerald Mosely is a very intelligent women and she handled some tough scrutiny today on the relay teams with professionalism, grace, as much candor as she wanted to give, and some thoughtfullness on past mistakes with an eye into how the future will unfold.

Relay team squads will be announced by July 6. Runners will know which leg that they are running, and will be expected to attend a sprint camp to be part of the team. Mosely made it abundantly clear that she thinks that too many details have made the relay teams too complicated.

I asked Mosely about picking national teams, as the French have done. Remember, the French 4 x 100 meter team broke the Santa Monica relay teams WR, with guys who never broke ten seconds, but who could get a baton around the track.

Stephanie Hightower, who always speaks well, was clear on several points. No witch hunts, more accountability, more transparency, and an understanding that the sport needs to change to find its proper place in the food chain of global sports.

We wish them well, and we will, as they expect, continue to query them on how the sport is progressing. But then, you already knew that.

To learn more about our sport, we encourage our readers to go to the
following places: to learn about our global sport. to learn about the sport in the U.S. to find a local running community, running store, running event, or to get involved in the grass roots culture of our sport.

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