McNees Extended as Interim CEO, release by Jill Geer/USATF, note by Larry Eder

"Portrait of the Writer Fyodor Dostoyevsk...

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Image via Wikipedia

I went to college at Santa Clara University, where I spent nearly six years of my life in the 70s and early eighties. I ran cross country in the fall, track club in the spring, and studied whenever I was not running.
My coach, Dan Durante, taught engineering and would discuss politics and philosophy with us on Sunday twenty-mile runs.  Santa Clara was not the kind of university one could take lightly, and athletes did not receive breaks.

I was fortunate to have had several excellent professors. As part of my History degree, I took a series of classes on Russian, German, European, Chinese and Japanese history & culture. One of my favorite professors was Dr. Istvan Mocsy, a man whose style and erudition proceeded his entrance into our lecture hall. Dr. Mocsy was an unforgettable character as well as a tremendous professor; one could always tell when his office was open as gray smoke from cigarettes came wafting over the top of his office door. 

Dr. Mocsy was fond of Russian writers, so we read Dostoyevsky, Turgenev, Gogol. The dear and glorious professor's modus operandi was to get the student to use contemporary sources, literature, art, news media, to appreciate the significance of the situation, through many views.
His thoughtful approach to the subject has helped me for the nearly thirty years that have passed since my graduation. The good doctor even wrote a letter to my son, when he found out I had given him Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks to read.

Mocsy was the rule at my university: I was fortunate to have had men and women who loved learning and shared that enthusiasm with my classmates and myself. They changed my life.  I found out, over the years, that many were not so fortunate with their education and professors. The major lesson I learnt in university was that one must keep a clear mind in trying to discover the truth, and one may have to pull off many layers of detritus before one comes to the truth, or, someone's version of the so-called truth. 

I come to the world as an optimist. I choose that position daily, although, I must admit, some days are harder than others. Today is one of those days.

I am in receipt of a press release from Jill Geer of USA Track & Field noting that Mike McNees has been extended to interim CEO, it looks like, through London 2012. It also seems that the Board, all 15 of them, will be engaged in some aspect of monitoring the USA Track & Field staff and Mr. McNees.

My experiences with Mike McNees is that he tries to get things done. If he said he would do something, he actually did it. That, in itself, is refreshing. I like Mr. McNees. I like his sense of self-deprecating humor, which goes a long way in a world fraught with mine fields. Interim CEO is similar to the former Catholic notion of Limbo-not heaven, not hell (I believe Limbo is gone now, I will have to check).  

And Limbo is where Mr. McNees seems to be. I do believe, that McNees understands the daily challenges of his job, and this press release probably puts his world even more in the now. The release notes an extension on his job, which could last until London 2012, or it could not. Read on, gentle readers. 

A first read of the release below might lead one to believe that Mr. McNees will hold the position through London. Au contraire, mes amis. If one reads between the lines, the position could last one day or four hundred days, depending on if the Board of Directors finds a suitable candidate for the CEO position.

I fail to comprehend how,  with 100 possible candidates, a suitable candidate for the USATF CEO was not be found. Between those candidates, and the board, surely something should have arisen? Perhaps, it is that the position of CEO is so fraught with challenges that one person can not handle the job? Or, perhaps, that the limitations put on the CEO makes the position an impossible one to hold? 

I really admire the Board. Seriously. I do realize, that for many reasons, there are complications in what should be a clear-cut process. This journey to find a new CEO has not been as transparent as the Board would have hoped. Some of the blame goes on the board, and some of it goes on us.

If the goal is transparency, then we are idiots. Confidences are exchanged in such a process, and the best candidate may be holding a job, which would require time and some negotiation to get the desired results. If that is the case, then the board should just say that. 
Nothing is as simple as it looks. Running a four minute mile, or jumping 27 feet in the long jump has true beauty in its execution, however, it is the building of layers and layers of training, and callousing that makes both miler and long jumper.

From the outside, this whole search looks quite unappetizing. 

This process has been a mess. Intentional, or unintentional, the process has taken almost ten months. Is the process this complicated? If so, then, tell us.

Our sport has a world championship in less than two months and an Olympics in less than thirteen months. There are two ways the process might go. Either get the process done, now, or hold off until 2013, and let us recover from the situation recently resolved with Mr. Logan and focus on a world championships and Olympics. 

Or, the second option: The Board needs to get this process done, and select a new CEO who can lead us into the next two to three Olympiads. And the board needs to let the CEO do what he or she is to do, which in my mind is still the big three: represent the sport, encourage our sport to grow, and sell a hell of a lot of sponsorships. That rolodex (both hard copy and on phone) is key. A CEO is a closer. They smell the sale and thrive on the challenge. Oh, yes, they need to know to get along with various constituencies.  

Our sport is not the easiest sport to manage, it seems. Get me an A plus candidate, because they will be dealing with A level problems. If it takes more time, let us know. It it takes two people to run this sport, let us know. Drop this transparency obsession and tell it like it is. Either truly put off the search and focus on Daegu and London, or complete the process. But please, do something definitive.

USATF sets leadership plan through London

INDIANAPOLIS - The USA Track & Field Board of Directors has finalized a leadership plan that will extend the service of Interim CEO Mike McNees and institute a new committee structure designed to advance the organization's strategic, commercial and operational objectives. The Board approved the plan at its meeting June 25-26 in Eugene, Ore.

McNees, USATF's Chief Operating Officer who has served as interim CEO since September 2010, will continue to serve in that capacity as the Board activates three committees: Management, Strategic Positioning and Operations. The committees will work intimately with the Interim CEO and key staff members, and will engage all 15 voting board members, as a transition through 2012 Olympic preparations.

"It is important for USATF's Board of Directors to create an environment that harnesses and unites the expertise and talents of each board member and the staff's executive management team," USATF President and Chairman Stephanie Hightower said. "We need to ensure we engage individuals where they can add value to the federation's goals and future success."

The USATF Board of Directors on September 13, 2010, announced it had voted to secure a leadership change in the CEO position. Since that time, it had conducted an exhaustive search for a new CEO. More than 100 candidates were initially identified and screened, with more than 25 being preliminarily interviewed. The search committee in January conducted face-to-face interviews with more than 10 of the top candidates, and three finalists had interviews before the full board earlier this year.
About USA Track & Field

USA Track & Field (USATF) is the National Governing Body for track & field, long-distance running and race walking in the United States. USATF encompasses the world's oldest organized sports, the World's #1 Track & Field Team, the most-watched events at the Olympics, the #1 high school and junior high school participatory sport, and more than 30 million adult runners in the United States:

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