The U.S. Olympic Committee's task force on restructuring and ethics today recommended an even more dramatic downsizing of the organization than expected to the USOC's board of directors, calling for the elimination of the 21-member executive committee and a shrinking of the board from 123 members to nine -- four of whom would be USOC outsiders.
During the early morning meeting of the executive committee and board, the task force also proposed the creation of a large, constituent-based body, a so-called Olympic Assembly, that would have the power to make suggestions -- but not to govern -- and would be intended to ensure a voice for the myriad constituencies pushed out of power if the changes are approved this summer.
"It's revolutionary," USOC acting president Bill Martin said. "When I first saw [the plan] my jaw dropped. I don't think anybody expected the board to be downsized to nine people and the executive committee to be eliminated completely."
Though members met immediately in small working groups behind closed doors to offer feedback, the opportunity for open-microphone comment was delayed until Sunday's session, so it was impossible to gauge in full the response of the USOC membership. However, several members said after the working group sessions that there were few complaints despite the drastic nature of the proposal, which USOC officials said would save the organization $1 million annually in governance costs.
"The reaction, in my opinion, was surprisingly positive," said USOC vice president Bill Stapleton, who along with Frank Marshall co-chaired the task force. "One of the jokes on the task force was that we would need flak jackets today, but I haven't seen anybody I would really characterize as very unhappy. . . . There has not been any real negative reaction."
Last week, Martin said this weekend's meetings would be purely information exchanges, with no chance of a vote until later in the summer. However, the plan seemed so generally well-received that Martin said this afternoon that it might be put up for a formal vote Sunday after all.
Though heavy discussion about the specifics of implementation is expected Sunday, the executive committee on Friday unanimously supported the task force's recommendations -- nine members of the executive committee, in fact, sat on a stage in front of the room while the proposal was unveiled.
Craig Masback, the CEO of USA Track and Field, said he was impressed that the executive committee, which includes Stapleton and Marshall, all but voted itself out of major leadership positions within the organization.
"There is no one who walked into this room that didn't know that, without a dramatic restructuring, the organization couldn't go forward," Masback said. "Everything about what they did was right. . . . It was brilliant. . . .
"They put themselves out of existence. Everybody who was out there basically said the good of the organization is more important than my personal interest."
Added Michael Massik, executive director of USA Fencing. "We were extraordinarily impressed. We felt we had turned a corner with the Olympic movement."
The 10-person task force was appointed in early February by Martin during an escalation in the USOC's recent leadership crisis, which eventually resulted in the resignations of more than a half dozen USOC officials including the chief executive, chief marketing officer and chief operating officer.
The plans, even if adopted in full by the USOC's board this summer, are still subject to the approval of Congress, which appointed its own independent restructuring committee -- led by Don Fehr and Roberta Cooper Ramo -- and which intends to use its power to change the 1978 Amateur Sports Act to redefine the USOC.
By putting forth its own credible proposal with the support of its membership, the USOC hopes to ensure that it has a say in the inevitable changes.
Though the plan likely will be tweaked in the coming days and months, as presented today it calls for a board made up of four independent directors, two representatives nominated by the national governing bodies of all of the Olympic sports, two athletes nominated by the Athletes Advisory Council and one U.S. International Olympic Committee member.
Anyone selected to the board would be required to sever all ties to any USOC constituent organizations to ensure the independence of the board.
The proposal also recommended four meetings a year, one in conjunction with a meeting of the Olympic Assembly; six-year term limits; and strict qualifications for the independent director seats.
"Judging by the mood as I left the meeting, and from what I heard downstairs [during the working group sessions], I think there is going to be tremendous support," Martin said.