OKLAHOMA CITY, OCT. 25 -- When the U.S. Olympic Committee named Harvey Schiller executive director this weekend, it cited "an embarrassment of riches" in the number of qualified candidates.
But by the end of the three-day conference, a more literal embarrassment of riches was under discussion as the USOC disclosed a paper loss of more than $20 million in the stock market plunge.
Col. F. Don Miller, president of the U.S. Olympic Foundation, a multimillion-dollar fund left over after the 1984 Olympics at Los Angeles, told the executive board the fund's value fell from $160 million to $139.5 on "Black Monday."
The sharp decline appeared to jeopardize some of the $9 million in grants the USOC planned to make to its member organizations on the eve of the 1988 Games. But Miller, and later USOC President Robert Helmick, said the USOC is so well fixed, no important grants will go unfinanced or even underfinanced.
"We're financially very sound," said Helmick. "If there's an emergency and distributable income is lower than expected, we'll strive to meet the goals some other way.
"The stock market decline won't jeopardize our training," he said. "If there's a shortfall, we've committed ourselves to finding the funds."
If this sounds like unfamiliar music from U.S. Olympic overseers, who long have cited financial weakness as a disadvantage in competing with athletic rivals from overseas, well, times have changed.
The USOC was so enriched by the 1984 Games, it found itself on unfamiliar footing. With a nest egg of $110 million from L.A. profits and the sale of Olympic coins, it established the foundation in 1985. Under the guidance of Miller and former Treasury secretary William Simon, the money went into domestic stocks, securities, real estate, interest-bearing notes and even some foreign stocks.
Until last week the fund had soared, and each year half the profits were distributed to the member organizations.
For 1988, 178 grants worth $9 million from projected earnings already have been approved, including funds for career counseling elite athletes ($50,000); development of Olympic breaststroke and backstroke swimming events ($49,700); team travel to the world softball championships ($45,000) and scores of similar projects.
The national governing bodies voted this weekend to keep all the approved grants intact, prorating any shortages across the board.
But governing board chiefs were nearly unanimous in their expectation that the stock market downturn is temporary and the money would soon be made up.
"I have great faith in Bill Simon," said Frank Fullerton, a Texan who heads the Judo Federation.
Fullerton's federation, like all the U.S. oversight groups, also got a $1.3 million gift after the '84 games as a direct share of the Olympic profits. Like many, the Judo Federation invested a healthy chunk of that with the Olympic Foundation.
So losses the USOF fund takes will be reflected additionally in direct losses to individual federations.
Still, no one was complaining.
"It was a windfall," said Soccer Federation chief Gene Edwards of the $1.3 million. "We didn't have it before and we still went forward. It's just been a cushion for us."
Some federations shunned stocks and they are sitting pretty. "We were a little bit more conservative," said Ollan Cassell, executive director of The Athletics Congress, the high-profile U.S. track and field governing body.
But come what may, as the stock market continues its unpredictable dips and rolls, Helmick said the USOC remains comfortably fixed. He predicted the budget for the next four years will rise from the 1984-'88 level of $135 million to $180 million to $200 million.
With those numbers as a backdrop, "I don't see any emergency," he said. "Finding $9 million in distributable funds . . . is not a major problem."
In other action, the USOC executive board: Voted to plan for a farewell extravaganza in Los Angeles before the start of the Seoul Olympics in September. The USOC hopes for a lavish sendoff with extensive television coverage. Voted to hear proposals from potential hosts of the 1996 Games at the USOC annual meeting in Washington in April. San Francisco, Atlanta, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Nashville are expected to make presentations. Voted to continue sending "friendship grants" to overseas rivals to help them develop Olympic teams, even though concern about helping strong competitors was expressed.