USATF CEO Doug Logan Fired
On September 13, 2010, USATF CEO Doug Logan was fired. The announcement came just slightly more than two years after Logan was hired, on the eve of the 2008 USA Olympic Trials in Eugene. It was rumored that Logan’s performance was to be reviewed by the USATF Board of Directors at a meeting in Las Vegas in September. Apparently at this meeting the Board decided it was in the sports’ best interest to move a different direction.
Running Times magazine was able to interview both sides. Jill Geer, Chief Public Affairs Officer for USATF, defended USATF’s position. Logan made some pretty critical statements about USATF.
Track & field is not the only USA national governing body to change CEO’s this summer. The national governing bodies for fencing and triathlons are also in the midst of change. In a New York Times article, Katie Thomas writes:
Each case is different, but some said the exit of the three leaders reflects a culture clash between sports executives, who often spend their careers moving from sport to sport, and volunteer board members, most of whom have deep loyalty to and expertise in the sport they run.
The innerworkings of USATF are quite complicated and unless you work for the organization, are a member of their Board of Directors, or have inside knowledge about USATF, it is probably unfair to comment on Logan’s performance as CEO during his two year tenure. LetsRun wrote a very good article that attempted to analyze why Logan was fired. They report that it probably came down to Logan not securing enough sponsorship dollars for USATF and not coming from a track & field background (i.e. he was seen as an outsider).
The biggest challenge that USATF as a national governing body faces is the diversity of those who the organization is tasked to represent. USATF oversees cross country, road racing, ultra running, race walking, and all track & field events (sprints, distance, jumps, hurdles, throws, and relays). That’s a lot to take on. Geer refers to this in her interview, saying that “the organization has to serve so many masters – professional athletes, amateur athletes, volunteers, coaches, youth athletes, masters athletes, officials, administrators, the USOC, the IAAF and others.”
For those who like conspiracy theories, two possibilities jump out.
First there is long-time coach Brooks Johnson. Johnson and Logan (possibly because both purportedly have large egos) never got along. Logan, in a blog during the 2008 Olympics, said the athletes “need the proper leadership and preparation,” in reference to the 4X100 relay baton drops. This could be interpreted as indirectly blaming Johnson, since Johnson was the chair of the USATF High Performance division. Related to this criticism or not, two months later Johnson resigned from that position.
Johnson’s blog (entry dated September 21, 2010 but the quotes are apparently from a 2008 post-Olympic interview) has this to say about Logan: “This guy has a massive ego and he is going to make mistakes that equal the magnitude of that ego. When he does, I am going to nail his ass because there is a mandate in federal legislation that demands accountability and transparency of organizations like USATF.” At that time Johnson predicted that Logan would not remain CEO for the duration of his term.
Logan expressed his feelings for Johnson in the recent Running Times interview by saying, “Other than Brooks Johnson’s intellectually dishonest harangues in his blogs…”
There was certainly no love lost between these two and Johnson has friends and supporters in the track & field world that could have helped push Logan out.
Second there is the New York Road Runners (NYRR) and their CEO Mary Wittenberg. The NYRR were certainly disappointed to be passed over for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials in favor of Houston. I have absolutely no evidence, but knowing the power that the NYRR have, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Wittenberg and the NYRR, like Johnson, had a hand in showing Logan to the door because of their displeasure at Logan choosing Houston over New York. Wittenberg was even mentioned as a possible successor to Logan but she has publically stated she is not interested in leaving her position with the NYRR.
Moving forward, the real question is not what Logan did or did not do, or who had a hand in his firing. What really matters now for those of us who love the sport and want to see USATF succeed is; Who is going to be the next CEO? The USATF Board said that they would begin the search process for a new CEO in October and it appears they want someone with a track & field background.
My suggestion: Make a call to Eugene, Oregon and ask for a man named Vin Lananna. Lananna has done terrific work everywhere he has been. Not only have his collegiate teams (Dartmouth, Stanford, and Oregon) been successful at the national level but he’s brought energy and excitement to the sport. He was the catalyst for the revival of Eugene as Track Town USA, bringing the 2008 USA Olympic Trials to Hayward Field. He has also been involved in creating post-collegiate teams first with the Farm Team at Stanford and now with the Oregon Track Club Elite. The man knows the sport and has administrative experience. He has the ability to do great things for USATF.