What's the frequency, Doug Logan? by Larry Eder

loganOregon150.jpg
                                                      Doug Logan, Oregon 2009

On September 13, the Board of Directors of USA Track & Field announced that they would begin a search for a new Chief Executive Officer. That was preceded by two days of meetings by the board in the lovely city of Las Vegas.


The decision to fire Doug Logan set into motion a series of events that many of us are still trying to comprehend. Per an interview on Running Times site by RT editor Scott Douglas (http://wpblogs.runningtimes.com/blogs/talktest/?p=762), Doug Logan relates that he was "lured" out of the USATF offices by board member Jeff Darman, and into a suite at the Westin Hotel, across the street. He was then told he was fired, with cause and that he should probably speak to the USATF lawyer about the cause. Mr. Logan was unhappy with the treatment he received. As someone who has been through similar situations, Mr. Logan was, at least from this representation, treated pretty par for the course. Getting fired is, well, not a pleasant life experience.

Much of the rest of the interview, where Logan responded in writing to Douglas's questions, were well-crafted, but pretty typical Doug Logan. Most fascinating to me was not his attack of the board, but his carefully-worded description of the end of his political relationship with Stephanie Hightower, President of USA Track & Field and Chairman of the Board of Directors. Logan also took pains to stay nice with Nike, the major sponsor of USA Track & Field.

On top of that, Philip Hersh of the Chicago Tribune, has a wonderful piece, titled USATF leadership: from Kiss Kiss to Kiss Off.  Hersh quotes an interview, which I believe came from USATF where the CEO and President spoke very highly of each other.  I do think Philip got it a little skewed there--Hersh seemed struck that Logan and Hightower were playing patty cake or being nice. Au contraire--that is part of the job. The CEO and President should put on a public face where the world is beautiful and if they have to, even sing, "We are the World." Without such subtrefuge, who would need to write a memoir? That subtrefuge is the reason that memoirs can be so titillating. 

What I find surprising, gentle readers, is that no one has suggested the following: If Doug Logan is fighting so hard for the remuneration that he has not received with the cessation of his contract, then why has he even opened his mouth? Seems to me, and after speaking with several members of the legal profession who concurred, that if one were in negotiations over the big bucks, one would, uhhhm, shut up. If one is fired for cause, that cause could reduce the remuneration of Mr. Logan. Logan's response seems to be that of a person with few options left on the negotiation front.

Most business cultures see firing as an intimate act, and in business, intimate acts, are well, not paraded around in major media circles (well, except on the E channel). Logan's interview will be read, but his detractors will use it to suggest that Mr. Logan's actions illustrate a level of experience not suitable with the position he still covets. 

Doug Logan, in the Running Times interview, notes that he is facing the results of a board that just does not appreciate his successes and what he has brought to USATF over the past 26 months. I am not sure that was the reason he was fired.

I believe that Doug Logan was quite successful at what he was hired to do.  Logan's job, in my mind, was to make USA Track & Field a docile servant NBG of the USOC. Logan was hired, I believe, as many businesses do who have to institute major changes, as a bit of a cleaner, sent in to make the tough changes, and then depart. In the process, Doug Logan got to enjoy his job, who would not? Traveling around the world, seeing track meets, but then, the reality set in. The board dared to ask of the most powerful man in US track & field-where are the bucks? Logan then became the Man who fell to Earth

So, is this just really bad kabuki theater? Is the board just getting rid of someone who did his dirty job but did not leave quietly? I do not think so. Remember, most of this board did not hire Logan, and Stephanie Hightower admitted in Hersh's column that she abstained from voting on Logan (as did at least three others) in July 2008. 
 
USATF, under the decade of Craig Masback, infuriated USOC,
because Craig and Jim Elias, had the temerity to rebuild the finances of the federation and regain its financial independence. Craig also would act first, then apologize. He also has a huge capacity for work. Masback knew the sport and loved his job. He also infuriated the board and the USOC-but for much different reasons.

The USOC sighed with relief when Masback resigned. They needed someone to get USATF out of its power position. The USOC needed someone like Doug Logan. Well, they got him.  

  And that, gentle readers, is why Doug Logan was hired. I remember asking Peter Ueberoth about Logan's hire (August 2008), and the former USOC chief was effusive, not just positive. "Finally, USATF has a strong CEO". That conversation happened in Beijing, in an animated conversation with Mr. Ueberoth, who gave me five minutes when I brought up Logan (and the fact that we went to same graduate schools).  

Under Doug Logan, it seems that while robust budgets were presented, I am still wondering how a $20 million budget is being paid for? Was there a bit of exaggeration on some sponsor's actual support of our sport? Perhaps I am just missing something, but if someone can show me how a budget substantially short of actual revenue works, I will happily provide space in runblogrun to educate our readers.

One of the people that Doug Logan absolutely detests apparently is none other than Brooks Johnson. That is surprising. Brooks is, well, polarizing. He also is one amazing coach (see David Oliver). Now, while I may disagree with Brooks once in awhile, the man has always been there for me, and Brooks made it quite clear where he stood on the Logan issue, early on. (Watch for the interview Brooks gave me in London, coming soon.)


I will say it one more time. The process of determining the next CEO is key and critical. A professional search firm, a search committee, and 12-20 candidates interviewed, vetted, and 3 given to the board for their final decision. Keep the entire program transparent.  Allow the members to have faith in the NGB and its new board.

How to view Doug Logan's demise? In my view, Logan was given 26 months at the helm of the NGB, as CEO, where he changed the structure of USA Track & Field, but did not build support with any of the major groups within USATF, from youth, juniors, athletes, coaches, managers, agents. The lack of new sponsors or growth in sponsorship may have played a strong role in his demise, but more than any other reason, in the end, the board could no longer support him politically. The noise level was too high calling for his ouster. Ironically, the house that Doug built actually did him in. Wonder what the folks in Colorado Springs are thinking? 

Doug Logan, the great communicator, was in fact, not communicating with his key constituencies. At the end of the day, Doug Logan lost the confidence and support of the board of directors.


Tragic? Of course, for those involved, however, this is what a board of directors is supposed to do. Some might have thought it should have taken less time to understand the Potemkin village that Doug Logan was building, but that is really for the historians to decide. 

Caught up in the buildup for London 2012, the most important job for the USATF board of directors now,  is to conduct a proper search and find someone who can a) listen, b) has a great rolodex, c) knows the sport, d) can do the political machinations, e) has business acumen, f) can sell, and e) wants the job more than life itself.

Curious to see who they come up with this time.

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