The witness list for today's congressional hearing on restructuring the U.S. Olympic Committee includes two Olympians, a major Olympic sponsor, a former USOC executive director and a public-sector member of the USOC's board.
Conspicuously absent are the USOC's seven highest-ranking officers and USOC CEO Lloyd Ward. None of them have been invited, despite having made it clear in recent days they would appreciate representation on the panel that will testify before the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. "Our invitation got lost in the mail," USOC President Bill Martin quipped last weekend.
The absence supports what is becoming an ever-apparent reality for the USOC: Congress, tired of the USOC's leadership problems, intends to undertake the major restructuring of the organization it called for two weeks ago without the extensive involvement and input of the organization's leaders.
"We have to be" in the driver's seat, Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) said by phone yesterday. "Anything that has been mismanaged that badly needs to turn the brakes, steering wheel and gas over to somebody else. . . . There's no question in my mind it needs a major overhaul."
The USOC's highest-ranking officials, who last weekend created a task force to address the restructuring of the organization by April, seem to sense their predicament. They say they are committed to change, but their efforts have been dismissed on Capitol Hill in recent days as too little, too late.
"We want to do things together," USOC Vice President Frank Marshall said. "I do think they are going to find it tough [to restructure] without knowing the beast."
The only person on the witness list with a strong connection to the current USOC leadership committee, executive committee member Anita DeFrantz, was apparently called largely because of her membership in the International Olympic Committee, which underwent its own revamping after the Salt Lake City Olympic scandal of 1999.
"It's a partnership," DeFrantz said yesterday from Washington. "Congress created the USOC and there will be a partnership for moving forward. To use a sports saying, I think Congress will be the umpire."
The way Campbell sees it, the USOC has reached strike three. A 1964 Olympian in judo, Campbell will attend this hearing as a guest of the committee because of his ties to the Olympic movement. Campbell said at the first USOC hearing Jan. 29 that the organization's recent leadership and ethics problems compelled him to reconsider what had been a long-held view that Congress shouldn't get too involved in USOC business.
He said yesterday that he would unveil information at today's hearing, called by committee chair Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), from a recent issue of Forbes magazine in which the USOC was ranked third-worst in economic efficiency in a study of 200 non-profit corporations.
"I think we need to look at how an efficient non-profit is structured," Campbell said. "If I was still coaching, and the USOC was one of my athletes, I would tell it to get rid of the fat. . . . It's really top-heavy."
Last week, Sen. John Breaux made similar remarks, saying the USOC's massive, constituent-based board of directors needed to shrink substantially. The smaller executive board, which is also constituent-based, might also be reconfigured or eliminated.
Breaux said Congress did not need a blue-ribbon panel to decide on the reshaping of the organization -- it could do it more effectively and efficiently by itself. Campbell said he would support the formation of a restructuring commission provided it was appointed by Congress or the president.
Campbell said he would propose today a closer look at the departure of USOC marketing director Toby Wong, who resigned Monday, saying she wished to rejoin the corporate world.
Others giving their views at the hearing will include Olympian and commentator Donna de Varona; John Hancock Financial Services CEO David D'Alessandro; former USOC executive director Harvey Schiller; and USOC public sector member Donald Fehr.