Ex-USATF CEO Doug Logan says Willie Banks fired him at bedside

Doug Logan

Many people are guessing about the firing of Doug Logan as CEO of USATF, with some (like Weldon Johnson of letsrun.com in this analysis) missing the point entirely. Logic does not apply. This was a clash between USATF President Stephanie Hightower and Doug Logan. In a revealing interview with Running Times senior editor Scott Douglas, Doug basically blames Stephanie, saying: “I believe Ms. Hightower is a smart, strong, politically nimble leader. She is also driven by ambition. At some point she made the political calculus that continuing to support me was costing her political capital that she became unwilling to expend.” The issue at hand might have been Doug’s initiative to take power away from elite professional athletes — by holding them more accountable for their primadonna behavior. Essentially, Doug wanted to rein in the elites. Stephanie wouldn’t have it, so Doug was gone.

Here’s the interview with Doug. “Me” is Scott Douglas.

Interview with Former USATF CEO Doug Logan

On Sept. 13, it was announced that Doug Logan had been fired as CEO of USATF, two years after a unanimous vote by the organization’s board of directors to hire him. A week removed from his dismissal, Logan answered via e-mail some questions.

Me: How did you learn you were being let go?

Doug Logan: A week ago, Monday morning, Jeff Darman lured me out of my office, suggesting Willie Banks was in the Indianapolis Westin and wanted to “brief me” on the results of the board meeting. He and Max Siegel escorted me to a guest room, and while Max was texting away on two PDAs, Willie told me I was fired, while sitting on the edge of a bed.

Were you surprised?

DL: While surprised over how classless this exercise has been, nothing this group does surprises me anymore.

What reasons were given for your dismissal two years after being hired to such great fanfare?

DL: I was told I was fired for “cause.” When I asked what the cause was they looked at each other and said I would have to ask their lawyer. I subsequently received a short letter that also failed to identify the cause.

This is all very Aristotelian. The universe is alleged to have been created by an “uncaused cause” and maybe we are experiencing a repeat event. Or maybe just a revival of that old film classic “Rebel Without a Cause.”

How do those reasons mesh with your assessment of how things were going at USATF?

DL: Very mysterious. We just finished a terrific competition season; we will increase revenues by over 30% over last year (despite the lies you are hearing); athlete support revenue is at historic highs; we have returned to the management of the Chula Vista training camp; our anti-doping stance has begun to change the culture; our merchandising program is the envy of all the other NGBs; and our last three meets had incredible television ratings. We were having a pretty good year.

Do you think there were reasons for your dismissal other than what you were told? If so, what might they be?

DL: I think there is no question the board felt it wanted to be more “hands on” despite the governance guidelines of the USOC. And, I had few fans among the sport’s “old guard” whose power was eroding under the reforms we instituted. The issue, candidly, was not the “performance” but the “performer.” It has gotten very personal. Both ways.

An interview from a year ago where you and Stephanie Hightower effusively praised each other has gotten attention since your dismissal. How should outsiders reconcile those sentiments with recent events?

DL: Very ironic. I believe Ms. Hightower is a smart, strong, politically nimble leader. She is also driven by ambition. At some point she made the political calculus that continuing to support me was costing her political capital that she became unwilling to expend. Thus ended a wonderful collaboration. As I once told her, she can walk in places I will never be able to walk. Conversely, I can walk through places she cannot. She may think differently about the latter today.

How did being someone from outside the running world affect your time at USATF?

DL: I may have too thick a skin but I really did not feel that much an outsider. Other than Brooks Johnson’s intellectually dishonest harangues in his blogs, I felt generally accepted.

What do you see as three major weaknesses with the organizational structure of USATF?

DL: Despite their inflated sense of selves, the board is weak. We reduced the quantity of members without improving the quality. Volunteer committees still have too much control over essential elements of the business. And, for too many people in the sport, it is more important that they control it rather than it be good or prosperous.

Do you have regrets with how the 2012 marathon trials site selection process happened? Do you have regrets about things you or others said after it was announced that Houston would host both trials on the same day?

DL: The 2012 marathon trials are in the right city for the right reasons. I have no regrets over anything I have said on this topic or any other. I only regret I do not have the opportunity to finish the job I started.

Is Nike’s degree of involvement with USATF helpful, harmful or neither?

DL: Nike has been, and will continue to be, a great partner to USATF.

From what background do you think the next USATF CEO will come?

DL: I do not presume to know where my successor will come from or handicap the search. I will leave that diversion to others.

What are your personal and professional plans?

DL: I am going to fight for every penny they owe me. I will not let them denigrate my reputation in an attempt to welsh on the contractual bargain we made. Then, I am going to find a project I can invest my talents, energy and soul in. I am also looking for a blogging site. Shin Splints is dead but my pen still lives.

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September 23, 2010

8 Responses

  1. mary Harada - September 23, 2010

    The headline makes it appear that Willie Banks was at Doug Logan’s bedside – I suppose that is “good journalism” – have a headline that catches one’s eye and makes the reader pay attention. OTOH – just a little bit deceptive me thinks. And it detracts from the article – Doug’s rant about the USATF board and Stephane Hightower.

  2. Gary - September 23, 2010

    I agree with what he said about self-importance. I would bet that if you asked 10 track guys if they knew who the CEO of the USATF is, maybe 3 would know. This is just another example of how this sport struggles for an identity. I guess we can all be thankful that USATF doesn’t control our training schedules…at least we have freedom in that area 🙂

  3. Ken Stone - September 23, 2010

    Mary, you nailed me!

    Actually, “good journalism” includes telling people important stuff that they don’t know. But journalism includes entertainment. I plead guilty to that.

    In any case, I wrote Willie to ask about the bedside firing, and he replied: “No one else could go so I bit the bullet. It was a difficult and stressful thing for me to do.”

    No doubt. Now USATF has to find someone to run the show AND worry about Stephanie Hightower. Who will bother to step up? Run, Willie, run!

  4. mary Harada - September 23, 2010

    It made me laugh Ken – I had read the article yesterday in Running Times so I knew that it was not a deathbed conversation. And yes it caught my attention – just as you intended.
    Got to love Doug for telling it like it is. No doubt that was part of his problem.

  5. Bubba Sparks - September 23, 2010

    You don’t bring in an outside person and don’t listen to what he brings. Even if you disagree you need to evaluate all options and rationale. If the political deck was stacked against him or anyone else in advance, they should have hired from within.

    Having worked with many elite athletes I have personally viewed and seen my athletes lose out on the financial and competition to the ego of others. People who used to be elites were deciding if they would advance and they didn’t even know them.

    One athlete I had was clearly a candidate for the Home Depot program, followed all of the directions, etc., and couldn’t even get a returned phone call for three months from the USATF contact that handled athlete funding. She wasn’t important and the person she was calling was. She finally got on by going directly to a Home Depot store where the manager requested she be approved.

  6. Kenneth Effler - September 23, 2010

    We used to bristle at the authoritarian excess of the old AAU but now it seems that the inmates are running the asylum. The sooner masters track can break away from the USATF, the better.

  7. Bubba Sparks - September 24, 2010

    Apparently he has some more money coming since he just received a raise before his firing. Good for him.
    http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/39345137/ns/sports/

  8. Andrew Hecker - September 25, 2010

    Its good for Doug, but that is our money–those annual dues all of us pay each year–at play. All the money wasted at USATF is money that is not put back into our programs. Look at the entire Masters budget. Compare it to what this maneuver has wasted, or the money wasted on perks to the big wigs, or the annual convention. What too many people forget USATF is a non-profit, public service organization; who’s real work still depends on the benevolence and hard work of volunteers.

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