So, here is what we know about Doug Logan so far. He is an experienced sports administrator. He has worked with sports that have some of the same issues as track & field. He has a self deprecating sense of humor, and his bi lingual upbringing, plus his dealings with international sports federations give him a fighting chance to build on the successes that USATF has had in the past decade.
Where we have not faired well is in dealing with the IAAF and having North America seriously considered (well, excuse me, everywhere in North America but US). We have taken shots, many well deserved on the games played with drugs by the US-mostly in seventies and eighties, but still the rest of the world has no clue of the athletic ability in one neighborhood in the US, because if they did, they would just run away scared.
The truth is, in most major cities and environs in the US, we have athletes who could participate in many Olympic teams around the world. These kids are naturally talented, but go to football, basketball, soccer and baseball. It is not drugs that makes these athletes world beaters, it is three meals a day, good coaching and the time to develop.
It has been in the past decade, after a decade of self recrimination, that American distance running became something to admire again, instead of something from the old days. In Beijing, we actually have half a dozen athletes from 800 meters to the marathon who have great chances to medal.
USATF has little or nothing to do with the 1.4 million high school kids in track and cross country. Most of those kids do not get past league finals, and they do not compete in USATF junior programs. Neither do the 30 million people who consider themselves runners, walkers or joggers in the US. And the 7 million race finishers last year, well, they are no really joiners. Just consider this, take the non duplicated circulation of Runners World and the Running Network, and you get about 1.2 million unduplicated runners who are interested enough in the sport to subscribe to a running magazine, either national or regional.
For Doug Logan to succeed, he is going to have to take those glass half fulls and make alliances. Get the numbers and the sponsors will spend more money. Give the sponsors and the USOC a clear, concise description of where USATF fits in the world of running, and how it governs youth running, masters running and contributes to club and road running, and you have a national plan.
Consider this–if USATF can bring the warring parties together, and convince the USOC that they can control their version of the Balkan wars, then Doug Logan has truly accomplished something.
The rumor mill was alive this summer. First it was the board of directors of USATF had no interest in a new CEO, then it was that the head hunter was suggesting only two candidates, then it was that those candidates were turned down, then it was that five more candidates were suggested, and then we heard than NONE of them were interviewed, then the Indystar.com named their pick for the new CEO and then Bill Roe announced that the new announcement was imminent.
When Doug Logan’s name came up, it was a surprise to all but the board. He was not on anyone’s short list or long list. But, his resume is impressive and if you listen to what he says in the interview below, and perhaps to what he suggests, you see an able administrator (needed), a veteran international sports negotiator (needed) and someone who knows how to walk into a boardroom with a couple of autographed Nike sweats and walk out with a new multi million dollar sponsor.
What waits to be seen is who he goes to advice for? Does he take the time to see who has been supporting the elite meets the past few years, from athletes, agents, media, sponsors and management? Does he get the straight scoop from his staff on what sponsors are happy and who are not? And how seriously does he take the USOC letter and how does he insure that problem is dealt with first priority?
Our sport, to succeed, must make some very painful changes. The changes in the structure that the USOC is demanding will change USATF to its very core. Many important people with important fiefdoms are not going to be happy. Change is painful, and Doug Logan, if he does his job well, will be hated by half of the current members at one time or another. This is the real world of global sports. It must be run like a business for it to be respected and for it to be a success. That does not mean that people do not matter, but that managing people, managing a big staff, knowing who ones friends and whose one enemies are takes the kind of person who realizes that managing a sports federation is big boy time.
Most of the global federations are as fed up with the imperial ego that the USOC exudes and the medal mania that NBC pushes in its 1300 hours of sports propaganda. The US has to learn to be a much more gentle winner and a classy looser as well. In track & field, we are going to be winning more medals, we need to do this with class and not give other countries another reason to think that the US is xenophobic cretins. No one else in the world understands Manifest Destiny ( check my reading suggestions at end of interview below).
Logan is a in a good place to do this. His upbringing, which I find fascinating, gives him something most kids in US do not have anymore-even second and third generation Latinos do not speak fluent Spanish. I found his explanation of his family culture almost as fascinating as his staunch feelings, well articulated, about drug cheats.
Doug Logan will be given the benefit of the doubt by the the crew who truly love the sport, make a living from the sport, and want the sport to grow larger for all. It is important that he reaches out and touches the community at large.
On the search process
BILL ROE: This is a process that, we stated several times, we wanted to do it right rather than quickly. There were candidates we could have pulled in at any time, including 10 minutes after Craig resigned, but we surveyed the landscape. It probably wouldn’t have included Doug Logan right off the bat because people were talking about candidates with track and field experience. The search committee became so impressed with Doug, they had the option to forward 1-3 names to the Board. But they were so impressed with his credentials that they forwarded a single name. Last night they approved Doug in our meeting.
DOUG LOGAN: For those of you who I know, it’s going to be a great delight to interact with you again. For those I don’t know, it will be good to get to know you on a person to person basis. I’m delighted to be in this position. This was a wonderful process to go through. I’ve gotten a huge education from going through the process and met some wonderful people. At the end of the day, I’m very, very enthusiastic about the prospects for the future of USATF. We had a wonderful meeting last night. All of the board members had an opportunity to ask me questions. I made some opening remarks to convey to them what makes me tick. I’ve had some successes and I’ve had some failures. I see myself as a person who puts on his trousers one leg at a time, works hard and lets the chips fall where they may. One of the things the (National Office) staff will learn on Monday that I have a picture of myself dressed in clown makeup that I hang in every office I’ve had. It’s a reminder that I shouldn’t take myself too seriously.
I think that you’ve seen the releases, seen my background. If no one else begins with this issue, let me say a couple of words with regard to drugs in the sport. This is an issue which is meaningful, important. A couple of my friends have asked me whether it dissuaded me, the problems the sport has had in the last few years. To be quite honest with you, for me it became a challenge, and I certainly hope I can put my name on the roster of people who are making a difference in ridding ourselves of this horrible, horrible plague that exists on sports these days.
In the last few weeks, some remarkable performances have occurred on the track and in the pool, and it’s a crying shame that they have to be viewed in a tent of suspicion we’ve got. I feel strongly that a more impassioned voice has to be raised by the people who have stewardship of sports. I told the board last night that I plan to be one of the messengers who raises the issue in a more impassioned way.
Q: What is your position on people who have been banned for drugs going on to coach?
DL: This gives me a great deal of problem, that someone who has been proved to be a cheater is now in the process of coaching others. I have a significant amount of problems with it. I see very little difference between someone who is using performance enhancing drugs to assist them in competition and someone who is put in a position to encourage others.
BILL ROE: We affect the ability of a coach to get a credential and whether that person has a national team staff member. A person who has a history of doping will not be credentialed for our events and will not be national team staff members.
Q: How are you going to improve track and field?
DL: I listed six or seven things as goals in the release that I think at least from the beginning are the goals I’m going after. Devoting my energies to improving the medal counts and staying at the top of the medal charts at World Championships and Olympic Games, and to be a passionate messenger in the battle against performance enhancing drugs. To achieve growth in sponsorship sales, event creation and television outreach. To be a fair and firm agent for change as we undergo restructuring. To increase grass roots membership and improve our relationship with the IAAF, IOC and others, and finally to address an internal issue but a very, very important issue, to institute a customer service culture in the National Office.
Q: How do you plan to get more track on TV that you don’t have to pay for?
DL: That has a relatively complicated answer that first of all requires an understanding that sports is entertainment, and that what you provide people has to be entertaining. I’ve been going to track meets my whole life. I remember the seat I was in at Madison Square garden, watching the Wanamaker Mile as Ron Delaney slapped down those boards. It’s a rhythmic, pastoral experience, but unfortunately it’s one that has some trouble translating into television. We have to come up with some norms that fit better into a television broadcast. At the same time, the authenticity and purity of the competition can’t be tampered with. It needs to be in a more regular (TV time) slot. There needs to be some form of ascendant competition. I think the US Open is doing things very right. I think the Fed Ex Cup was brilliant. Those are the things we’ve go t to look at in terms of making the television product different than the one that exists right now.
We’ve got a sport that’s easily marketed and is seen as a red-blooded sport. But I think it’s a combination of events, venues, a little showmanship, regularity, and finally some way of measuring ascendancy and reaching some sort of climax or ascendancy.
Q: Track and field is unique in its diversity, with a lot of different disciplines. How do you plan to reconcile that vis-à-vis restructuring and your own operational governance?
DL: The issue of commonality. Basically, at the end of the day, for most of the activities that occur, it’s one foot in a sneaker in front of another on a repetitive basis or one jump or one throw followed by another. While those with separate constituencies may see differences, there is at least a rational way of saying this tent we’ve got can enable to flourish all the disciplines inside of it.
In the opening remarks, I indicated to you that reorganization is not going to be comfortable. There are certain groups that will feel disenfranchised. In the process of what the board goes through, during the process, we need very open lines of communication with all of the constituent groups of USATF. Make sure they wind up with mechanisms that empower them on an ongoing basis, make them see that in certain modalities they can make their opinions and voices heard and they can have their turf protected, even though they may not have a single, go-to person on a board of directors. Make them see this board has got to reorganize itself in the realities of the 21st century. It’s a huge job, one that I pledge myself to. It’s one that I walk into understanding that not everybody is going to be comfortable with that.
Q: What is the structure and makeup of the new board?
BILL ROE: The Board was very close to achieving restructuring last year. Although it was under a USOC mandate, we had undertaken it on our own. We were very close to having a 13-member board. What broke down at that point was how do we arrive at the selection of the board, so we put that on the back burner. The USOC wanted us to move ahead faster. Where we’ve arrived at is almost the same place when we were on our own. I think we’re going to arrive at a good place.
Q: Doug, what are your priorities for first 100 days?
DL: I can tell you what I want to achieve in the first 30 days. In the first 30 to 60 days, I’m going to be a huge sponge. Those of you who know me know I’m a pretty quick study. I’m going to take track on one-on-one and I’ve got some good teachers. I’ve got probably 100 volunteers on my PC screen right now. I will talk to fans, coaches, athletes, officials, members of the press and sponsors – everybody involved in the sport at one level or another. It would be a disservice for me to jump in and be presumptuous that I have answers before I undergo that process. Beyond that, we’ve got a wonderful Olympic Team that I hope to be joining early in the process in Beijing, and hopefully we will come out of that competition with a number of medals greater to or equal to what we’ve had in the past. I think we’ve got a great team, and I look forward to that competition and supporting our team in the best way we know how.
We’ve got a reorganization going on and a series of meetings. I’d like to offer whatever resources I’ve got to those organizational efforts. I’ve got other stuff to do. I’ve got a very able staff that Craig put together to sit down with and talk to, let them know what doing business with me is all about and what being my colleague is all about. I’ve got a group of volunteers to get to know and this wide range of Associations. I’ll be spending long days, lots of nights and lots of weekends.
Q: Soccer and track have some similarities in being global sports that struggle to gain a foothold in the U.
DL: I think you’re correct in assessing that both soccer and track and field are worldwide sports idioms that don’t necessarily have the kind of following and support in this country as they have many other countries in the world. I will tell you, without denigrating the prior sport I was involved with, that as opposed to soccer, track and field is not seen as something that is foreign. It is seen as something that is native, and in that way it is an easier sell than that we had with soccer, including with sports writers of a certain generation to whom it was hard to sell soccer as a sport. Hopefully the lessons I learned with soccer, trying to sell it domestically and our relations internationally, will be helpful to me.
Q: How long is your contract?
DL: it’s for a five year plus period of time. It is through the next quadrennial at least.
Q: What can you do on the drugs issue? USATF does no testing.
DL: I think that testing is what testing is. It’s becoming more and more sophisticated every day yet I don’t know if we’re gaining on the problem or not. I think that relying on testing and disciplining and sanctioning is really not addressing the overall issue, which is that there needs to be a cultural reversal with regard to how people look and feel about the issue of people cheating. I think that has been the missing component so far, and hopefully I will be able to mobilize others. At least in the inception, I plan to be a far more passionate messenger for the sport in its battle against these ways of cheating. My message is, “If you are cheating, get out. If you are suggesting as a coach or agent or personal manager to a young person to use some of these substances, get out.” We will find ways of getting these people out of the sport. What we need to do is to create an environment where the young man or young woman four lockers down who knows someone is dirty starts to feel comfortable in expressing their disdain for that individual and be supportive of the 94, 96, 97 percent who are competing in a fair way and clean way.
Q: Can you talk about your own running?
DL: I have been running since I was in the military service, so that’s a long, long time. I’ve got a lot of miles on hard pavement and bad shoes behind me. I’ve got some terrible arthritic ankles. I can only run every third day because of the swelling I get. A sane person would say stop running, which tells you a little bit about how I feel about running. The second day it’s a lot of ice and some ibuprofen. I try to get out and run, if you call it running, about 2.5 to 3 miles every third day.
Q: Bill, why did USATF go with an outsider?
BILL ROE: I don’t think our panel was tied to outside or inside. We were looking for someone with vision with leadership, with a thick rolodex. It wasn’t going to be tied necessarily to in or out of the sport. In Doug’s case, he stood head and shoulders above even before that was considered.
Q: Were you at the Olympic Trials?
DL: Yes I was. I had not attended a competition at Hayward Field before. I’ll tell you, from the standpoint of the drama of the competition and the involvement of the fan base that was there, and the festival-like spirit that was out there, that was as magical experience as any Super Bowl or World Cup or US Open I’ve been in. It had different elements to it, but it was marvelous. The weather cooperated and there were great performances. There was just a magical feel to it and it was done in what was a Fenway Park or Wrigley Field and there was a lot of authenticity to it.
Unfortunately, the majority of the general sports audiences didn’t really get a sense of what was going on. It taught me a marvelous lesson. I was excited about the prospects of this job before, but those 3 days closed the deal for me.
Q: Do any of your priorities have to do with venue? MLS improved when it got soccer-specific venues.
DL: The simple answer is yes. It needs its own distinctive collection of venues, not a single national stadium. A wide variety of them, they can be old and new. I think there need to be more domestic competitions that are attractive and in many instances that are linked in the form of a circuit that, together with using existing venues that we can get some degree of partnership. Getting into the business of building modern-day venues is going to be one of the solutions we can bring forward, but we’re a ways away from that.
Q: How do you create destination athletes? NBA and other sports have them.
DL: You’re comparing team sports to individual sports. This is a sport that has stars who all of a sudden become recognized but then every four years, people lose sight of them until the next quadrennial comes along. Skating has the same kind of problem, gymnastics has that problem. We have to keep people interested in the system. We have to put ourselves in a position of fostering increased domestic competition that is entertaining and is for the long haul.
Q: What is the single most important thing you’ll be judged on?
DL: If you were to sit back after five years, let’s say I was a believer in the Spartan oath or Athenian oath, “Did I leave the place in a better place than I started?” Growing the sport into a better value than it is at this time. Two, turning the tide in performance enhancing drugs so everyone is unified in playing a part in casting out the evil that exists in our midst. And three, perhaps it will be said that during the difficult time of transition for the organization, he exercised maybe an iron fist and velvet glove and created something that is better.
Suggested reading list
Gentle readers, Barbara Tuchman is one of my favorite writers. One of the foremost historians of the twentieth century, three of her books are quite timely now:
The Proud Tower-Tuchman makes the last days of the nineteenth century comes alive. When the US decided it must become a global power.
Guns of August-Tuchman captures June through August 1914, the prelude to World War 1, when people spoke of a splendid little war to clear out the cobwebs. Tuchman’s description of Austria Hungary, Serbia and present day Jugoslavia has some fascinating modern parallels.
The Folly of War-near the end of her life, Tuchman’s essays on war over the past three thousand years, done in essay form, should be required reading in all high schools, as should the two books above.