SBJ/Feb. 17-23, 2014/People and Pop Culture
Bill Marolt, U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association
He’s taken USSA to top of the mountain
Published February 17, 2014, Page 38
■ When I graduated from the University of Colorado, my professional plans were to go into ski area management and ski area development, but the job as ski coach at CU was open. I took the job thinking it was a transition job, and two years turned into seven.
■ People encouraged me to take the AD job. It was a weird change of direction. The athletic program at CU at the time needed leadership and it needed some attention. I knew what the challenges were and what the solutions were so I just jumped in.
■ I came from the coaching side. I didn’t know a lot about the business side. I didn’t know about television, sponsorship, fundraising. All of those things I learned on the fly.
|“Bode is, at core, a really good person,” Marolt says of U.S. skiing star Bode Miller.
■ My first year as AD we were a 1-10 football team. The biggest decision I made in my first year was to extend Coach [Bill] McCartney’s contract and give him two more years. That was probably the most key decision the whole time there. That gave him a chance to continue to recruit and improve. We went from 1-10 to a 7-5 team going to a bowl. By 1990, we won the national championship.
■ We had gone through a period of time with the football program where you get in a cycle of hiring and letting guys go. When I looked at where we were, Coach McCartney had a good coaching background. I looked around the country and couldn’t see a better guy to do it. A lot of ADs would want to find their own guy, but I had a lot of confidence in him.
|Marolt stuck with McCartney, who delivered a national title.
■ Before I got here, we had a foundation. The foundation board still exists. But we weren’t sure who we were when I got here. We weren’t sure if we were a fundraising org or an event org. Really what we are is an athletic org. We’re an org about winning. But we have to do all of those things well. We have to do a great job in sales and marketing. We have to do a great job in fundraising. We have to do a great job in managing events. That’s all to support the organization. And as we’ve found success, our sales have gotten better, our fundraising has gotten better.
■ The key is having the stars that are easy to identify with. It doesn’t matter if it’s fundraising or sales but having the stars there — whether it’s Julia [Mancuso] or Lindsey [Vonn] or Bode [Miller] or Lindsey Jacobellis — those personalities and the results they get motivate people. What our public wants to hear, a corporate sponsor or a donor, is excitement. They want to hear that we have a chance to have someone standing on the podium. We have to stay focused on athletic results and winning.
|Marolt celebrates a strong run by Ted Ligety at Soelden, Austria, in 2009.
■ One of our values is team. We believe we’re stronger if we have everybody working together. But all of these sports are individual sports. When they get in to the starting line, they’re individuals. But getting them there takes a community and a team. It takes not only coaches but the teammates, the nutritionists, doctors.
■ We had conversations with [Miller] and his agent [after Miller left the team in 2007]. We opened the doors and said, “Look, we’d like to have you back.” We didn’t put any conditions on it other than, “You have to be part of the organization and what we do going forward.” He was fine with all of that. It wasn’t a complicated situation because I didn’t make it complicated.
■ [After Torino] we felt that as a staff and an organization we needed to put a better face on the organization. That’s when we sat down and thought about values. You talk about what competition teaches you, but a lot of organizations don’t write that down. Out of 2007 came a recommitment to values and what we wanted to be and look like. It was important we did [create a new code of conduct] because it sent a message to the public about what we were. It made a difference leading up to ’10.
|Marolt in the U.S. Ski Team Day pro-am race in 2012 at Squaw Valley
■ I grew up in Aspen and had a super opportunity to get involved in skiing. My mom and dad and family were supportive. But I had a coach named Gale Spence who coached me from fourth grade to high school. He was a competitive skier. He started me in it, and that’s where a lot of my philosophy started.
■ I want to stay involved in skiing. I’m on the board of directors of the USOC, I’m on the FIS council. I’ll do that the next few years. I’ll do some fundraising for USSA. I’ll be involved from a distance. I’d like to stay involved through membership on those boards and fundraising.