Even without tying on his running shoes, Frank Shorter may have won his most lucrative race. The running clothes company that bears the name of the Olympic marathon gold medalist has been chosen to make the garb for the U.S. track and field competitors in the 1980 Olympics.
Shorter is likely to be one of those running.
Just how much the Shorter company will make on the deal is not known. Debra (Dee) Dupree, marketing vice president for the 2-year-old company, says the total order should be for equipping about 150 atheletes with seven or eight items each. One estimate puts the deal at close to $10,000 at wholesale prices.
But the reward is not just money.
"By the time these clothes are seen worn by runners in the Olympics, the Shorter clothes will be the "in" thing" says John Chapman of Irving's Sport Shop. This would boost business "an awful lot."
Shorter encountered few hurdles selling his clothing, simply presenting samples to the committee of Olympic managers and coaches, who chose them unanimously. But Shorter's competitors, many of whom have been in the business much longer and have far greater distribution, are crying foul.
Some complain they weren't even invited to show their samples.
Others feel Shorter's personal participation in the races and therefore his acquaintance with many of the Olympic officials, plus the fact that in a promotion with the Hilton hotels they raised $25,000 for the Amateur Athletic Union, gave him the inside track.
"We never even got the chance to compete," said Hans Sohnstrom, production manager of running clothes for Head Sportswear. "They say they sent out invitations. If we had gotten one, we would have jumped at the chance. It looks strange, the whole thing."
Also, since Shorter must be an amateur to run in the Olympics, some eyebrows have been raised regarding his role in the company.
"There's no problem with his amateur status," said Bob Paul, a spokesman for the U.S. Olympic Committee. "Fortunately they (USCC) do not say there are jobs you can't have. They like to permit people to work for a living."
Of the choice of Shorter's line of running wear, Paul said, "There is no conflict."
"We were promised a chance to compete, but never had an official invitation," said Bill Borda of Dolphin, makers of most of the track and field gear used by college teams. "It seems stranger because we are one of the very few manufacturers using 100 percent U.S. labor and materials."
Borda said he made an impassioned plea in 1972 to the Olympic committee to present samples of possible uniforms. In return, he said, he got a flowery note saying sorry he was overlooked that time, it wouldn't happen again.
Borda wasn't any happier about the choice of Speedo as the official swimsuit in 1976. When he pointed out that Speedo advisors were on the selection committee for swimwear. Borda was told that those advisors leave the room before the voting.
The Federal Trade Commission did in fact investigate the coaches' panel that selected Speedo as the 1976 U.S. Olympic team swimwear supplier and found that many were paid advisers to Speedo.
As a result, the FTC ruled that no one who has any connection with the manufacturer can sit on a jury selecting the clothing. No company can call itself the official supplier.
The Olympic Committee carried this ruling one step further, saying that the manufacturer cannot advertise the fact that it made the clothes.
Borda doesn't agree with the charge that Shorter's clothing was chosen because of his efforts to raise money for the AAU. But he does believe that as a runner Shorter has the inside track with Olympic people.
"The sad part is that Shorter only lends his name to the company and has no day-to-day connection with the clothes. We're here five days a week, sometimes seven," said Borda.
Shorter's role in the company, said Dupree, is to give overall approval to the designs.
Gilbert Haynes of the Tom Broderick Co., makers of clothes for women athletes but a supplier of warmups and running clothes for men and women in the Pan American Games and the World Games, was invited by the Olympic Committee in 1976 to discuss running clothes.
"But we knew it was already cut and dried for Adidas so we just bowed out," said Haynes.
He is hoping that the final decision has not been made and that his company, one of the oldest in the business, still will have the chance to compete.
But it is unlikely.According to Robert Newland, manager of the track and field team in the 1980 Olympics, the unanimous choice of Shorter's clothing by the five coaches and four managers will be recommended to the U.S. Olympic Committee and he hopes "they will not turn us down. It will take a while for these clothes to be produced."
According to Newland, just back from Spartakiade in Moscow, five companies who the committee felt could make a complete line of the clothes needed by track and field athletes, were invited to California on short notice to present their ideas. Only Adidas and Shorter showed up and Shorter showed up in person with completed samples.
"All around, we just thought the Shorter clothes were the best," said Newland.
"If we don't get it," said a still hopeful Haynes, "I certainly hope it goes to an American company."
"This is the first year the clothes will be from an American company," Newland said excitedly. "And now we won't have to look like one more Adidas team.
Meanwhile, Shorter, having won this race, is busy training, in his own line of clothing, for a gold medal. CAPTION: tpictures, Frank Shorter may be self-advertisement in Olympics.