U.S. Olympic Committee acting president Bill Martin said yesterday that he was in no hurry to fill the chief executive vacancy left when Lloyd Ward resigned Saturday, reversing course on an earlier plan to fill the post this week with an interim CEO.

Martin said he no longer believed appointing an interim CEO -- one who would lead the USOC through the restructuring expected to occur over the next several months -- would be in the organization's best interests and instead proposed a careful, measured search to find a longer-term CEO who would keep the job at least through the 2004 Summer Games in Athens.

"I am not in a hurry to get this done," Martin said. "I think the most reasonable mode . . . is to find a CEO who would commit to be here through the Athens Games."

Martin described the ideal candidate as someone with a sports management background who would garner the respect of USOC staff members as well as Congress and sponsors. Martin said he had received 12 applications in recent days but that none of the candidates seemed like a fit.

"I am not going to be in a panic mode to bring anyone else in here," Martin said. "We will do it in an orderly, due-process fashion."

By extending the window to find a candidate and de-emphasizing the importance of having an interim CEO, the USOC would seem to have a better chance of attracting a qualified and well-regarded candidate in the coming months, such as Peter Ueberroth, Harvey Schiller or Fraser Bullock.

Martin's comments suggest USOC officials are giving up hope they can convince former USOC president Bill Hybl, who lives in Colorado Springs and has an excellent relationship with Congress, to fill the vacancy temporarily and at no salary. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) has repeatedly suggested Hybl for the post, but Hybl has said he doesn't want the job.

Martin added it was possible that Jim Scherr, the USOC's chief of sport performance who on Sunday was assigned to govern the day-to-day operations of the organization in Ward's absence, could continue in that role through the Athens Games. Despite the increased responsibilities, Scherr received no promotion, title change or salary increase.

Martin stressed that he was open to input about how and when to fill the CEO vacancy, especially from Sens. Campbell, Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and John McCain (R-Ariz.). Though Campbell has in recent weeks mentioned Hybl and Bill Bradley as potential CEO candidates, he said yesterday that he wasn't wedded to any particular candidate or plan. Campbell said he had gained confidence in the leadership of Martin through their recent conversations. Martin, the athletic director at the University of Michigan, assumed the job as acting president in February when Marty Mankamyer resigned.

"I know Bill Martin is credible," Campbell said. "Whatever works for them, as long as they continue with the downsizing and streamlining, is okay with me. I think they are beginning to turn a corner."

Campbell's tone during yesterday's conversation represented a marked departure from his relentless, hammering approach in recent weeks. Saying Martin "really has risen to the occasion," Campbell said he trusted Martin and the executive committee to determine whether USOC employees Early Reese and Rick Mack -- whose conduct he questioned in a scathing public statement this week -- should resign.

Campbell said he was less concerned about whether the USOC had a formal CEO in place than whether the organization moved forward quickly on its work for reform. A committee appointed by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation is expected to make specific recommendations about restructuring the USOC by June 30.

During his conference call, Martin said the USOC executive committee has had no discussions about finding a full-time president. Martin said he doesn't want the job long-term but will stay on as long as needed. Campbell said he called University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman to "reassure her of the importance" of Martin's continued involvement with the USOC.