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Volume 23 No. 9
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USA Diving making progress, still short of USOC demands to avoid decertification

More than two weeks have passed since the U.S. Olympic Committee’s deadline for USA Diving to oust its chairwoman after a damning investigation. She was still in her roles on June 6.

In February, the USOC threatened to decertify the governing body, effectively the death penalty, if it did not make 10 changes by May 20. Those included adding three independent board seats and naming one of those new members to replace Chairwoman Michele Mitchell.

USA Diving has had trouble getting in sync with the USOC’s demands.
Photo: getty images
USA Diving has had trouble getting in sync with the USOC’s demands.
Photo: getty images
USA Diving has had trouble getting in sync with the USOC’s demands.
Photo: getty images

Also, the board was ordered to clarify its conflict-of-interest policies and investigate several major decisions that may have personally enriched some board members. Jack Perkins, a former board member who was appointed acting CEO last year, and Mitchell were both specifically cited by the USOC’s investigation. 

In a statement, Perkins said the Indianapolis-based nonprofit has been working “diligently” to fully implement all of the reforms, and leaders fully expect to satisfy the USOC’s concerns. 

USOC spokesman Mark Jones said USA Diving has made sufficient progress to delay decertification even though the deadline passed. “Considering the progress that has been made thus far, it is our current expectation that the reforms will be completed in an acceptable time-frame,” Jones said in a prepared statement.

The February letter, recently obtained by Sports Business Journal, lists 12 “NGB failures” it found after the law firm Arent Fox investigated. Among the problems not previously reported: Perkins’ appointment as acting CEO, USA Diving’s promotion of a Christmas album produced by a board member’s son; an unauthorized distribution of sensitive material by board member Sean McCarthy; and the involvement of Perkins’ own software company in USA Diving.

However, the investigation also found other problems, first reported by Sports Business Daily in March, including: Mitchell applied for the CEO job while serving as board chairwoman; the board steered April’s FINA Grand Prix international competition to Mission Viejo Diving Club, where Mitchell is head coach; the board authorized a $15,500 bonus to McCarthy despite staff objections; and changes to USA Diving’s membership structure that benefited clubs at the expense of national office finances.

The USOC has ordered big changes to the structures of at least four NGBs in the past two years under the threat of decertification: USA Gymnastics, USA Diving, USA Boxing and USA Badminton. All but badminton have agreed to reforms; on May 31, USA Badminton Chairman Ben Lee said his board would not comply, leading four other members to resign.

Some critics of the USOC’s crackdown think it lacks the political will to follow through with decertification. So far, the USOC has begun proceedings only with USA Gymnastics, but put that on hold after the NGB declared bankruptcy. USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland has said that delay is to facilitate prompt settlements to victims of sexual abuse by physician Larry Nassar.

Editor’s note: This story is revised from the print edition.