The President's Commission on Olympic Sports will recommend today a restructuring of the nation's amateur sports system that includes revamping the U.S. Olympic Committee, financing amateur sports programs and ending the warfare among U.S. sports groups.
The commission is recommending a complete overhaul of the USOC to make it more representative of the diverse amateur sports organizations that are responsible for U.S. pariticipation in internation competitions such as the Olympics and Pan-American Games.
The two-volume, 613-page report covers a wide range of subjects. Among the more significant and long-waited recommendations is one for the revitalization of the USOC.
Nothing that many of the U.S. sports problems are self-generated, the report says that American sports organizations are "fragmented, not bound by common purpose or any effective coordinating system."
"Against athletes from nations for whom Olympics medals are as precious as moon rocks," it continues, "U.S. competitors seem to have steadily diminishing chances of success."
The USOC, the report says, is a "maddening complex of organizations so unwieldly in its makeup and structure that it finds accomplishing its work in an efficient manner difficult."
The commission recommends that the federal charter of the USOC, which acts as a private corporation, be amended so that it is composed only of national governing bodies (NGB) in their respective sports.
The new body, called for the purposes of the report the Central Sports Organizations (CSO) would be founded on the organizational structure of the USOC.
But, Michael Harrigan, executive director of the commission, said it would be considerably stronger in setting up and protecting amateur sports organizations and, most importantly, the athletes who participate in them.
Under the commission's proposal, which would have to be approved by Congress, the governing bodies for each sport would send five representatives, at least one of whom, must be an athlete, to an annual "Congress," which would eventually elect a board of directors not exceeding 15 members. Again, at least 20 per cent of them must be athlete representatives.
The board, the major policy-making body of the CSO, would set up standing committees on a number of issues ranging from sports medicine to the participation of women, the military and handicapped athletes in amateur sports.
While rejecting federal control of amateur athletics, the commission has recommended a set of criteria for recognizing national governing bodies and resolving disputes over franchise controls in certain sports by requiring that franchise challenges be decided by the American Arbitration Association. The latter would require legislation by Congress.
To this end, the commission is recommending that a group wanting to be recognized as an NGB not have more than 20 per cent of its voting power controlled in any way by an organization that has more than 20 per cent of control over another NGB.
There is also a set of 14 criteria for qualifying as an NGB and being eligible for financial grants. Chief among them is that they be separately incorporated and representative of all groups conducting programs in the particular sport.
One reason for this is the commission's desire to have decisions affecting the sport made by people active or knowledgeable in it. This would prevent, for example, rulings on luge, which is represented by the AAU, being made by the AAU board of directors that might be largely swimming or track experts.
Another important criterion for being recognized as an NGB is the stipulation that athletes not be arbitrarily barred from competition except for specified reasons, such as low scholastic grades by students or lack of proper medical staff at the competition.
The 20 per cent rule is a crucial point in breaking up the AAU power block that has controlled eight of the 28 NGBs in Olympic sports. While recognizing the significant role played by the AAU over the decades, the commission is essentially saying that one amateur sports group in the country should not exercise so brad a power over constituent groups and the USOC.
By this recommendation the commission is also extending somewhat of an olive branch to the NCAA, which withdrew from the USOC after the 1972 Olympics. The NCAA protested that the AAu exercises too much authority over sports that the NCAA was largely responsible for developing to their Olympic potential.
The commission also sets forth a number of options for raising funds from both the private and public sector. On the public sector, it recommends drawing from existing funds already available through numerous governmental agencies, such as the Interior Department for construction of training sites.
There are also suggestions for tax credits for parents subsidizing athletes, a 5 to 10 per cent excise tax on professional sports, coin sales, lotteries and reduced air fare to competitions. On the private sector, industries should be encouraged to adopt certain sports and allow broken time payments whereby atheletes could be paid by their employers while training.
The commission also recommended a one-time investment of $215 million for facility constructions and development of programs plus an annual allotment of $83 million, although it said much more could be raised through various efforts.
On the definition of amateurism, which some U.S. groups of enforce more strictly than necessary under International Olympic Committee rules, the commission recommended that amateurs be allowed to compete in events where professionals also participate and that an athlete who is a professional in one sport should be able to retain amateur standing in another. The athlete should also be able to receive sports-related income, except for actual competition.
The commission also said that national teams must be started in certain sports since Americans generally have one month to work before facing experienced competition.