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Reorganization key in USOC crisis



Published: Tue, February 11, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Reorganization key in USOC crisis

Eds: AMs.

With BC-OLY--USOC Turmoil-Athletes, Bjt

By NANCY ARMOUR

AP Sports Writer

CHICAGO (AP) -- Discarding presidents and chief executive officers like outdated clothes certainly hasn't solved the U.S. Olympic Committee's crisis.

The group has gone through four presidents and CEOs since 2000 alone, with the executive committee set to begin the search for another president at a meeting here this weekend. Yet the turmoil continues almost uninterrupted, alarming even Congress with its frequent scandals.

The answer, many say, is a widespread reorganization that would streamline the group.

"You can't just put a Band-Aid on a thing that keeps festering," Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, one of five senators investigating the USOC, said Friday. "It's important we get this figured out. We're doing a disservice to the people who really believe in the Olympic movement."

The latest crisis began with chief executive officer Lloyd Ward. First there was a dustup over his membership at Augusta National, then he was accused of trying to steer Olympic business to his brother's company.

The executive committee gave him a mild reprimand Jan. 13, prompting five USOC members to quit in protest.

Some colleagues blamed president Marty Mankamyer, claiming she was working behind the scenes to oust Ward in hopes of gaining more power. Mankamyer resigned Tuesday, and some -- including Campbell -- think Ward should, too.

Mankamyer still has her supporters, and Campbell is worried Ward's presence will be a distraction to any reorganization efforts.

"It's like a boil: It has to be taken care of before it can heal," he said. "I just don't see how it can heal with some of the players involved."

Some in Congress also remain concerned about Ward's membership at all-male Augusta, Campbell added.

"There are some of us who feel so strongly about his involvement (in Augusta), I think the Olympic Committee will find a lot fewer friends in Congress, I will put it that way," he said.

But one major Olympic sponsor said the USOC needs to forget about personalities and politics and focus on reorganization.

"The process is going to cause much of the leadership to leave anyway. So I'm not looking at the personalities so much anymore," David D'Alessandro, chairman and CEO of John Hancock Financial Services, told USA Today.

Any restructuring will likely begin with the USOC's size. The USOC has a 123-member board of directors as well as a 21-person executive committee. That's a huge group of people to consult on major decisions, and maintaining it isn't cheap.

In fact, Forbes magazine warned recently that the USOC's overhead is too high and it doesn't spend enough money on its programs.

"I'm optimistic that we'll come out of this with a much-improved USOC," vice president Paul George said. "I think we will have the collective will to make significant changes."

They'd better -- or Congress will step in and do it for them. Under the 1978 legislation that created the USOC, Congress does have the authority to revoke the committee's charter.

Campbell doesn't want to see it go that far, but he would like a yearly report to Congress that includes an independent audit of the USOC's books.

The Senate Commerce Committee has a second hearing scheduled Thursday and asked for suggestions on how to fix the USOC's operating structure. Campbell also wants to compare the USOC's workings with that of the charities shown to be the most effective by the Forbes survey.

According to that report, 78 percent of the money spent by the USOC went to its charitable purpose. The list's average was 84 percent.

"I want Washington to know that we hear them, we want to be a part of the reorganization," said Bill Martin, the USOC's interim president. "We want to be partners with them.

"We don't want to be considered a problem any longer."




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