Hightower is Possible USATF CEO Candidate? by Philip Hersh/ link to Chicago Sun Times column, note by Larry Eder

Stephanie Hightower-possible new USATF CEO?

Updated 26 May, 2011

In a recent column by noted sports columnist Philip Hersh, (http://newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/sports_globetrotting/2011/05/usa-track-hightower-very-possible-as-new-ceo-doug-logan-search., Steve Miller, Head of USATF Search Committee, noted coach, former Nike sports marketing exec and Agassi Foundation director, provides several of the options available to the board of USA Track & Field in finding a new CEO for USA Track & Field.

There are four options as Miller tells Hersh. It is here that Miller floats the worst kept secret in the sport, the possible naming of Stephanie Hightower as acting CEO or new CEO as one of the four options that Steve Miller discussed with Phil Hersh. 
Miller was quite explicit in his discussion with Mr. Hersh, overall, many who read it told RBR that it was obvious that Mr. Miller was, perhaps, testing the waters, to see what the reactions would be to the various scenarios. 

The reason it is worst kept secret, is that our sport, being a terminal rumor mill, has been throwing Ms. HIghtowers' name, among few others, around since last Fall. Kudos to Stephanie Hightower, who has handled the perfect storm with grace, and candor. Part of that gift is to not respond and focus on the job at hand, which is what Stephanie HIghtower has done, over the last seven to eight months.

The big fear? That Ms. Hightower will be compared to a former CEO of the US Olympic committee, with the first name of Stephanie, was noted by Mr. Hersh. Probably so, but after first examination, that comparison should be over. Hightower knows our sport, I am not sure what relevance Ms. Streeter had to the USOC: Ms. Streeter surely had little or no global relevance. That is not the case with Ms. Hightower.

After a good night sleep, it still makes sense to me to give Stephanie Hightower the opportunity to lead this sport. Here is a women who came up through our sport's ranks, has raised money for education in Columbus, Ohio, and has honed her political skills in the mine-laden fields that are USA Track & Field. And, her knowledge and access to sport key players on a global stage, is also important, and quite frankly, needed. Friends and associates will tell you that HIghtower misses nothing, and her keen mind and ability to motivate would be key differences with the past position holder.

We spent the last two plus years with a CEO who promised the world, and delivered very little. In looking at Mr. Logan's tenure forensically, the scary thing, in my mind, is how much pressure there was on the former board and search group from outside USA Track & Field. We need someone who knows our sport, loves our sport, and quite frankly, wants the job. Let's face it, the job can become a quagmire, with competing interests from various constituencies within the sport.

In my mind, USA Track & Field is at a critical juncture. We have an opportunity to make our sport much larger by joining the national need to curb healthcare costs. If USATF can get into supporting PE across the country, anti obesity programs, and making elite athletes spokes persons and role models, our sport can grow to where it should be. We have the sports of track & field which has little or no relationship with road running, a discipline of the sport, while growing, celebrates fund raising as the major raison d'etre, and is thousands of little fiefdoms with few working together.

We have an elite sport that needs some creative approaches to get us on TV, promote our heroes and make the sport relevant to sports fans. Stephanie Hightower, in my mind, gets it.

Craig Masback took us back from the abyss. When Craig Masback left, he was exhausted from the day to day strain of bringing a sport back from financial or near financial ruin. The pressure from the USOC to find someone who "looked the part" and was not from track & field got us Mr. Logan. Logan, while well meaning, showed that having little or no support within the sport would doom any leader or potential leader. The last two years, have been lost, under the past leadership. Let's get a CEO named so that we can get focused on upcoming opportunities.

Yes, there were several candidates that USATF looked at, and for reasons known, at least now, only, to the board, did not make the cut, or take the job. Rumors abound. Vinn Lannana was one, of course, but others, who have current jobs, did not make the cut or did not take the job.

Why would someone not take the job? The job of CEO of USA Track & Field means that, if you are doing your job well, you have antagonized at least half of your constituency on a good day, and more on a bad day.

If the board sees Hightower as the candidate who can answer the sports needs at this time, then, please stop the agony,  and make a decision. While the federation is running relatively well right now, a leader is needed, for many reasons.

RBR humbly
asks the USATF Search committee to get on with the decision, now that Mr. Logan's case is settled, and name a CEO.  This search has taken way too long.

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