Friday, December 4, 2009

USATrack announcing a $21 million budget for next year

Told to clean up its act, USA Track and Field responded Thursday by announcing a $21 million budget for next year, a 40 percent increase over 2009 thanks largely to a new marketing deal with Nike.

USATF chief executive officer Doug Logan unveiled the budget plan at the organization's annual meeting in Indianapolis. Earlier this year, track officials signed a multiyear deal with Nike worth more than $10 million a year — a 30 percent to 40 percent increase over the last deal.

The budget, which still needs to be approved by membership Sunday, is an almost unheard-of increase for sports in a time of economic trouble. It's also the kind of news USATF needed, about a year since the organization — long beset with political infighting and shoddy governance practices — received a directive from the U.S. Olympic Committee to overhaul the way it does business

"Our business plan is designed to generate new and higher-value sponsorships," Logan said in his speech to the USATF membership. "In doing so, management is making itself accountable to deliver on what we are promising."

Logan said the goal is to increase the budget to $30 million by 2012.

After a disappointing 2008 Olympics, USATF also needs to improve on the field of play. Logan said most of the goals associated with "Project 30" — the organizational commitment to win 30 medals at the London Games in 2012 — are on track.

One of the most high-profile initiatives is a proposal to remove politics from the selection of coaching staffs for international events, and make the process more merit-based. One part of achieving that would be to eliminate a ban on anyone serving as an Olympic head coach more than once.

"It stems from a philosophy that these positions exist to maximize athletes' performance, and not as mere rewards to be spread around," reads the proposal, which will also be voted on Sunday.

When USATF announced its deal with Nike this summer, Logan said there were provisions that would become more lucrative if Chicago landed the 2016 Olympics.

The games, however, will be in Rio de Janeiro. Experts such as Peter Ueberroth and Dick Ebersol have predicted Chicago's loss will cost millions in endorsement and TV money — not only for track, but for the Olympic movement overall.

It also hurts the United States' chances of hosting a track world championships — something USATF wants, and something widely viewed as an important part of a larger effort to improve America's international standing and profile in the sport.

"Chicago losing the 2016 Olympic bid was more than a small bump in the road for us. ..." Logan said. "That bid would have given this country a stadium capable of holding a world championship. But we haven't given up, and we are actively pursuing alternative options with other U.S. cities to consider a 2015 bid."