Cliff Wiley: ‘Time is near that USATF needs to break up’
Kansas City lawyer Cliff Wiley, a former world-class sprinter at Kansas, knows USATF inside and out. In 2004, he was head manager of Team USA at the IAAF world junior (under-20) championships in Italy. He coaches high school track and has directed youth track meets for decades in Baltimore and the Midwest. And now he’s ready to chuck his standing in USATF. He’s calling for the breakup of USATF. “This is a debate that needs to occur,” Cliff wrote me last week. “Swimming broke up and no one died. The pieces to the USATF puzzle simply don’t fit anymore.”
Cliff also wrote me: “I also know most of the so-called ‘players’ in USATF (and) was on the failed restructuring task force. I think I see more of the whole picture then most people.”
Here’s a note he sent to several people (including me) on March 12, partly in reaction to the Colorado USATF association mess.
The amount of money at stake in the Colorado Association dispute was relatively small, and the ruling sounds (worse) than it really is.
The real question that needs to be addressed is whether the current structure of USATF is in the best interest of its various constituent groups. I say that it is not. By any objective standard, the youth section of USATF is little more than a cash cow for the majority of the associations and for the national office.
Take a look at the facts; we raised the fees on the youth without any consideration given to its impact; we promote the Hershey Games, but give little support to our own Junior Olympic program, and now a grievance panel is forcing the Colorado (Youth) Association, which generated the money at the center of this dispute, to give some of it to adults who can raise their own money.
I think the time is near that USATF needs to break up; let the elites go their way, the masters, racewalkers, and LDR theirs, and the youth theirs. There is little that these groups have in common anyway, except that they participate in the same sport.
Each of these groups can make it alone, and each will then be more focused on their respective missions without worrying about what some other section of the federation thinks. Let the masters . . . go after that Viagra sponsorship without fear that some kid will ask his mother what’s it for.
Give the rights to decide who represents the U.S. in the Olympics marathon to the LDR federation, or the Road Runners, or USA Running, or whatever they are calling themselves these days. Maybe they will find a way to beat the Africans without dressing up imports in USA uniforms, and claiming we are making progress in the long distance events.
Let the track and field people continue to bid out its championships in the dark of the night, then forget how it was done in the light of the day. When the $5.00 per gallon of gas gets here, the race walking federation will be rivaled only by the skateboard federation in membership. What are we waiting for?
The sooner we recognize the fact that the system that we adopted from the AAU is hopelessly flawed the better we all will be. Much has changed in the world since 1978, and it is time for the various groups that compose USATF to move into the 21st century. Can anyone remember the Soviet Union or travel permits to compete in Europe? It is time to bid farewell to TAC, I mean USATF, as we currently know it.
Of course, the idea of masters track splitting off has been expressed before (most forcefully by former USATF Masters T&F Chairman George Mathews). This is the first time I’ve heard a USATF opinion leader call for the whole enchilada to be sliced up.