USOC seeks to expand board by 4 members

Published Jul. 13, 2010 6:47 p.m. EDT

The U.S. Olympic Committee wants to add four members to its board of directors and end term limits for the chairman - two of a handful of moves designed to improve continuity and strengthen international relations.

In a proposal sent out for public review this week, the board also wants to add the CEO as a nonvoting member and allow executives in other areas of the Olympic movement to serve on the board as a way of beefing up the credentials of a leadership group that was viewed as lacking expertise.

The board will vote to formally approve the changes at its next meeting in September. The changes come from recommendations made by an advisory panel headed by former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue. Tagliabue was asked to look at how the USOC does business after a bad 2009 that included two changes at the CEO position and an embarrassing loss by Chicago in the bid to host the 2016 Olympics.

The push from 11 to 15 board members is a small change of direction from reforms in 2003 that drastically reduced the board from 125, but chairman Larry Probst said he didn't view it as a move toward larger, more unwieldy government.


''I don't think it's going backward, I think it's moving forward,'' he said Tuesday. ''Adding additional expertise, that's a good thing. Fifteen people is an absolutely manageable number.''

The 11-person board quickly and unexpectedly removed Jim Scherr as CEO in March 2009, leading to an uproar in the Olympic community and the thought that such a small, volunteer board, filled with some who only worked part time in the Olympic movement, could be more easily swayed by a strong personality or two with a specific agenda.

One of the new board members will represent the national governing bodies and another will represent the Athletes' Advisory Council, and restrictions will be lifted on those members holding key positions in their respective organizations. The restriction was in place to avoid conflicts of interest, but the Tagliabue panel found it was hard to find ''outside experts'' in the narrow pool of Olympic family candidates.

''It allows people more actively engaged in the business of the Olympics to have a seat on the board and we all think that's a good thing,'' CEO Scott Blackmun said.

Blackmun's addition to the board is designed to give him more status in international circles; it might also prevent him, or others on the USOC staff, from being blindsided the way Scherr was when his fate was decided in a meeting he was not privy to.

Eliminating term limits for the chairman is also key, because it will give Probst the time to establish relationships with international leaders, who have often complained about the USOC's revolving door at key positions.

Probst's term ends in 2012, and he has stated his intention to stay beyond that if asked.

''I think we all know, having continuity at key positions in the organization, via the chairman of the CEO, is a good thing for the movement in the United States,'' Probst said. ''It's important for building international relationships with the IOC and other parts of the Olympic movement globally.''

The board didn't adopt Tagliabue's proposal of eliminating the nonvoting board position of past chairman, currently held by Peter Ueberroth. Ueberroth's term, however, ends later this year and there are no plans to renew it.