What I Would Do as USATF CEO, part 1

Earlier today I took a look at the USATF non-CEO issue, and mentioned a possibility that Oregon head coach Vin Lananna might be a stealth candidate. It’s a long shot to be sure, but nothing is impossible.

Except, of course, that I become the next CEO of USA Track and Field. Inconceivable. But I’m ready to make my presentation.

A CEO can’t just do whatever he or she wants. But they can have goals and directions they want things to move. Over the next few days I’ll roll out some ideas that have been rattling around my head. Here goes.

What would I do if I were USATF CEO?

Broaden the base of sponsorship.
This one came from Chris Nickinson of Runnerspace.com. Why doesn’t USATF have an official sports drink? Why don’t they have an official sports nutrition product or energy bar? These are just two things the organization is missing out on. There are lots of other possibilities in this area.

I would also change the emphasis of sponsorship, which opens up even more possibilities. Sponsors currently support USA Track and Field, the organization. I would rather have them be sponsors of Team USA Track and Field, the athletes we send to the Olympics and Worlds and Pan-Ams and other such things. It’s a semantic difference but a big one. It could be argued that the USA’s track and field team is the single most-successful sports team in the history of the world.

If you look at it that way, then it might be easier to sell sponsorship for, say, the official toothpaste of the U.S. Track Team, or the official pencil sharpener of the U.S. Track Team, or whatever. You want to sell patriotism and success and athleticism (the team), not bureaucracy (the organization).

Move the USATF Championships to July.
This already happens once every four years, as our Olympic Trials are held in July. Time is available, as the Diamond League circuit takes a break in July for the national championships of all the European countries. Why do I think this change is important?

The USATF Championships are basically the end of the domestic season. I would like the domestic track season to be longer, not shorter. Our current domestic outdoor season is college meets, a few small elite invitationals, the two Diamond League meets, and the national championships. That’s not a season.

The timing of that season isn’t good, either, especially the two Diamond League meets. They are typically on the first two weekends in June. In the larger sports media world, they get lost in the NBA and NHL finals. We struggle mightily to get any traction at all, so there’s no need to make it more difficult than it already is. You want to be up against nothing but baseball and maybe golf or tennis.

The timing of those two Diamond League meets is bad for hardcore track fans, too. I rarely see the Prefontaine Classic live, because it’s almost always during the Ohio High School Championships. As much as I love a meet at Hayward, it’s an easy choice for me. I won’t see the following week’s adidas Grand Prix, either—it’s on the same day as the NCAA Championships. Why cram all the great meets into such a short time frame?

If the pecking order of the Diamond League is such that the Eugene and New York meets are basically stuck where they are, I would at least strongly encourage them to move to Sundays or some other day. They are the only two Saturday meets on the Diamond League circuit.

There would be pushback on moving the USATF meet to July, most notably by college coaches. It would extend their season and make it more difficult for collegians to do well at the nationals. But any time there is change, there are always winners and losers, and in this case I think the needs are greater for change than for the status quo.

More tomorrow.

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3 Responses to What I Would Do as USATF CEO, part 1

  1. pjm says:

    USATF used to have an official sports drink – remember SoBe? (Gawd, that stuff was rancid.)

    When it comes to changing the scope of sponsorship, remember that the USOC claims ownership of anything involving the Olympics, and they’re pretty hardcore about conflicts with their own sponsors. (Oversimplification, but close enough.) (This is why finding marathon Trials hosts is so hard – finding sponsors for the Trials which don’t conflict with USOC sponsors is nearly impossible, so the hosts inevitably lose a ton of money.)

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