Panel suggests USOC increase size of board by four

BY foxsports • March 26, 2010

A U.S. Olympic Committee advisory panel recommends expanding the board of directors from 11 to 15 people as one strategy to get more Olympic insiders in on the decision-making process.

The panel, led by former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, released its findings Friday, and the USOC board began discussing the 24-page report at its quarterly meeting in Colorado Springs.

The board is expected to act on the recommendations later in the year, and USOC chairman Larry Probst said he expected many of them to be enacted.

``My quick read is that the input, the recommendations, are very thoughtful,'' Probst said. ``These are not revolutionary, but they are evolutionary changes to the board's size, structure and operating policies.''

The advisory panel was formed last year, after several months of tumult that included two changes at CEO and Chicago's embarrassing last-place finish in the race to host the 2016 Olympics; Rio de Janeiro won the bid.

Although the panel did not recommend wholesale changes, it didn't hold back its criticisms.

``For too many years, the USOC has suffered from the high turnover of chief executives and others in leadership positions, from a lack of continuity in strategy, and from a lack of transparency that accompanied much of that instability,'' Tagliabue wrote in the report.

``These activities have been very negative not just in shaping public perceptions of the USOC, but also in having had long-lasting deleterious effects on the trust, credibility and confidence of many key constituencies and partners,'' he wrote.

The report calls for one of the four new proposed board members to come from the Athletes' Advisory Council and another from among the leadership of the national governing bodies of Olympic sports. The two others would be ``independent'' members, including a Paralympic representative who would chair a Paralympic advisory council.

In 2003, in the wake of scandals that led to congressional hearings, the board was reduced from 125 members to 11. The panel said that move was good overall, but needed slight adjustments - including adding the USOC's new CEO, Scott Blackmun, to the board as a nonvoting member.

The advisory committee also said the chairman of the board's term should be increased and that person's role in international relations clarified.

The report recommended several other adjustments it described as ``fine-tuning,'' much of which would give board members more time to learn the complexities of the USOC and build relationships domestically and abroad.

Those included doubling the two-year renewal terms for directors, injecting more transparency into the board's actions and making the CEO the point person on all communications.

The report emphasized the board should, as a way to increase the talent pool, eliminate the requirement that board members nominated by the AAC or the National Governing Body Council sever ties with their organization as a condition of service.

``It broadens the pool,'' said USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus, who applauded the report. ``It gives us the opportunity to make sure there are people at the board table who have intimate day-to-day knowledge of NGB life. That's been missing for some time now.''

Tagliabue, who cemented the NFL as America's most successful and popular sport while he was commissioner from 1989-2006, said his experience in pro football was ``quite instructive in terms of the NGB's abilities to serve on the board without disqualifying themselves from their current NGB position.''

He noted some of the most respected team owners and general managers ``served on NFL committees, high-ranking committees, while they continued to have their positions at the team level, and they were able to do both. They were able to take off their team hat when they were working on a league committee and look at the common and collective interests of the league.''

Since the Tagliabue panel was formed last year, Blackmun has replaced Stephanie Streeter, who was named CEO last March when the board ousted Jim Scherr, and the U.S. team led the world with 37 medals at the Vancouver Olympics. Overall, the tenor of the conversation has become more positive.

Tagliabue's report is seen as another step in the right direction.

``I think Mr. Tagliabue and the committee have done a very good job of cutting through some of the clutter and presented constructive recommendations for the organization,'' USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny said.


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