SBJ/May 2-8, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

USA Track & Field narrows candidate list for CEO post to three

After a seven-month search for a new CEO, USA Track & Field has narrowed its list of candidates to three finalists and is within weeks of making a decision, said Steve Miller, the chair of the organization’s search committee.

Miller declined to name the three finalists for the job. New York Road Runners President and CEO Mary Wittenberg and University of Oregon track coach Vin Lananna have been associated with the job in press reports.

The finalists were interviewed by the USATF board in Denver over 2 1/2 days in mid-April, and the board is now in the process of negotiating terms with the final candidates.

The participation of all the board members represents a shift from the selection of the previous CEO, Doug Logan, who was voted on by the board over the phone with several abstentions.

As a result, he never had the full support of the board and that contributed to the board’s decision to fire him last September.

The search for a CEO began a month later, and Miller said it has taken longer than anticipated because USATF has worked to engage all of its constituents in the search.

The search committee, which includes six members of the 15-person USATF board, spoke to 94 track insiders last year and developed a criteria for the ideal CEO candidate. The criteria focused on three skills: an ability to sell and attract sponsors; an understanding of the television and communications marketplace; and an ability to effectively communicate and build consensus.

“After reading it, you may have had the thought we were looking for a deity and not a person,” Miller said.

Without a chief executive, USATF has been run by COO Mike McNees, USATF President Stephanie Hightower and the USATF board. Miller acknowledged that the lack of clear leadership has tested the organization.

“Hopefully, in a year or two years, you’ll interview somebody and the sport will be rolling and we’ll see enormous change, and we’ll say, ‘Wow, that was worth going through,’” Miller said.

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