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Mike Moran — The USOC Finds Its Way Home Again

[1]By Mike Moran

The release this week of the USOC‘s Independent Advisory Committee on Governance (The Tagliabue Commission), delivered a cogent moment for me and others long connected to the Olympic movement, and a familiar refrain at the same time……….how striking it is that it would be two notable professional sports figures who would, almost two decades apart, craft a report that would alter the direction and mission of the organization…………..first, George Steinbrenner in 1989 with his Olympic Overview Commission report that propelled the USOC into a restructure of the way it would provide direct financial funding to American athletes, downsize an awkward Board of Directors, and set the stage for sustained excellence by our athletes that has led to striking Olympic success since 1996…………and now this report from former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and his colleagues with a document that deals in simplicity and directness with the now seeming “lost generation” of incidents, issues and crises that was marked by incredible management and leadership turnover, lost sense of purpose and mission, and the staggering loss of international prestige and power for the USOC which led to the quick elimination of two of our greatest cities, New York and Chicago, in bids for the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games………the aggressive recommendations by the Tagliabue Commission to the USOC Board of Directors arrives at the time in history when American Olympic athletes are more triumphant than at any point in Games’ history and when the USOC has finally found both a Chairman and a CEO that like each other and who have the potential to change the face of the organization domestically and internationally………..as I watched Larry Probst and Scott Blackmun move easily among more than 250 guests at a reception the other night hosted by the El Pomar Foundation and the Colorado Springs Sports Corporation at the Broadmoor’s Carriage Museum and heard them speak, I was moved by a feeling of optimism and positive feelings about the future of the USOC for the first time in more than a decade…………their comments at the podium highlighted a commitment to both the international issues and the compelling problems for the organization in its hometown of Colorado Springs, and both hit the right tone in addressing them…….their critical relationship is among the most important recommendations of the Tagliabue report, which clearly defines their respective roles and asks for accountability……..it defines Probst’s role as the central figure in the International mission as well as suggesting a term extension that would allow him to become familiar to the IOC and the resulting view of stability at the USOC in the top position…………..it strongly deals with Blackmun’s role as CEO, suggesting that he have a free hand to carry out the mission without the nagging interference and politics of past Boards, and gives him as well as role in the international effort alongside Probst…………and it says that Blackmun should be the USOC’s principal spokesman and responsible for all internal and external communications……………it suggest a modest expansion of the Board of four spots which would offer input and involvement of the NGBs, Paralympics and athletes and brings Blackmun fully into Board meetings as an ex-officio member and no longer kicked out of the room when the Board goes into “executive session,” a scenario that had produced some of the most onerous moments in USOC history over the years, including the dysfunctional decisions to execute several CEOs and Executive Directors while they were in the lobby or the washroom down the hall…………..it demands accountability, transparency and even a suggestion that the USOC study and perhaps amend or revise its core mission…………..the report notes the difficult environment that the USOC operates within domestically, facing competition for support and profile of the professional sports leagues and NCAA sport, without any federal financial help, but nonetheless with a mix of mission, stories and inspiration for millions to build on………….another significant suggestion relates to the Board itself, challenging the men and women to become fully educated and involved in the mission of the USOC, the athletes and NGBs, and demands their unselfish commitment and the end of political and personal agendas that have dogged the organization for three decades…………..none of this and whatever portions of the report are adopted by the USOC will take place tomorrow………it is a blueprint for the future, something that will offer Probst, Blackmun and the Board a chance to create a Golden decade of success and triumph ahead, one marked by renewed vigor, passion, commitment and purpose…………..the USOC was tossed into the churning waters of amateur sport in 1978 by the Amateur Sports Act and told to lead…………a handful of executives made their way to Colorado Springs to take on the mandate and change the way our athletes prepare and how their dreams could be realized……..in the three decades since, the  USOC has enjoyed the heady rewards of staggering growth, image and power, only to almost lose it all amidst struggles internally created by egos, agendas, insensitivity to mission, and a lack of understanding of why it was created in the first place………..the organization that had the backs of athletes like Mike Eruzione, Jim Craig, Bonnie Blair, Carl Lewis, Edwin Moses, Mary T. Meagher, Eric Heiden, Teresa Edwards, Mary Lou Retton, Joan Benoit and scores of others lost its way………..but now, I think, it has found itself again, and Olympic and Paralympic athletes, young kids, coaches and officials have every reason to dream big again and of the kind of commitment and support so unique in a family of men and women and organizations that represent the best of America in every way, one that inspires and challenges our nation to be better every day, and to chase a dream, no matter how improbable it might seem.

Mike Moran was the chief spokesman for the United States Olympic Committee through thirteen Games, 1980-2002. The Omaha, Nebraska native was the Sports Information Director at the University of Colorado for a decade before joining the USOC in 1978 as it left New York City for Colorado Springs. He was the Senior Communications Counselor for NYC2012, New York City’s Olympic bid group from 2003-2005 and is now a media consultant.