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USA Track & Field fires CEO

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Doug Logan spent two years telling other leaders on the U.S. track scene things they didn't want to hear.

On Monday, they drowned him out, firing him as CEO and going in another direction with less than two years remaining before the London Olympics.

Unswayed last weekend by Logan's 45-minute defense of his performance, the USA Track & Field board of directors voted to oust the outspoken, unconventional leader who proposed many uncomfortable changes after America's disappointing performance at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Logan's contract called for a payment of nearly $1.8 million if he was terminated without cause, though he is negotiating terms of his departure and may not end up receiving the full amount.

"I was given the opportunity to be the custodian of a wonderful sport for two years," Logan said. "I knew my agenda was going to make some uncomfortable and that it was not going to be popular. I knew there would be people that were going to be upset and uncomfortable with the changes we were trying to introduce. At the end of the day, the people who were upset over what I did prevailed."

Chief operating officer Mike McNees will assume leadership duties of the Indianapolis-based USA Track & Field while the board begins its search for a new CEO. Board president Stephanie Hightower said a thorough search would be conducted and the change would not adversely affect preparation for London.

"I have every bit of confidence, and I don't say this lightly, that this is not a headless horse running around right now," Hightower said. "We have very, very, very good administrators who are responsible for development and implementation of the high-performance plan. As a board, we're all looking at 2012. We felt we needed a different kind of leadership to be successful when we get there."

Logan was an outsider when he was hired and made little secret about his intent to take people out of their comfort zone as he tried to bring a fresh perspective to track and field — a sport run largely by volunteers and oft-criticized for instability at the top.

His biggest endeavor was the "Project 30" report — an unflinching account of the problems at USA Track & Field that contributed to winning 23 medals in Beijing, disappointing by U.S. standards.

The panel Logan appointed to research and write the report decried an overall "lack of accountability, professionalism and cohesion" among staff, coaches and athletes.

One of the most radical ideas from the report was a restructuring of the way the United States trains for relays — a controversial undertaking, the progress of which has been hard to evaluate thus far, but which will continue under new leadership.

"We want to begin to have conversations with those athletes, coaches, agents and stakeholders who we think will be directly affected and involved and engaged in the relay process," Hightower said.

Logan's main goal was winning 30 medals at the London Olympics and doing it without any doping problems. He showed no compassion for athletes who got caught and didn't try to hide his disgust when they did.

It was part of his overall way of doing business, a method that left him open to criticism for being a loose cannon who didn't play to the core members of the track world.

"There are some really good people in this sport and I thoroughly enjoyed my interaction with them," Logan said. "Unfortunately, there are a number that are not. I would hope they don't carry the day."

Word that his job was in jeopardy started circulating earlier this summer. On Saturday, he was given 45 minutes to state his case at a board meeting in Las Vegas. On Sunday, the board met without him in the room to discuss his future. The announcement of his firing came Monday in a news release.

The news is being watched closely at the U.S. Olympic Committee, which two years ago issued a directive to USATF to clean up its governance structure and try to bring more stability to its way of doing business.

"They're on the right path," USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said. "I don't know if this decision affects that path one way or another."

More alarming to Blackmun was that Logan is the third leader of an Olympic summer sport to be terminated this summer, following those at triathlon and fencing.

"You have to be concerned about whether there's something systemic driving these changes," Blackmun said. "It's not in our interest to have this much turnover in top spots. It's hard to field the best candidates if these jobs are as high-risk as they appear to be."

No job in the Olympic program is higher risk than USATF, and Logan was well aware of that when he signed on.

He started posting a regular blog on the USATF Web site that pulled no punches. Within a few weeks, there were grumblings about the way this outsider — a successful sports consultant and entrepreneur who also served as the first commissioner at Major League Soccer — was dealing with the insiders.

He was on the job for the Beijing Olympics, though more as an onlooker because he had just taken over. Last year, he signed a deal with Nike reportedly worth $10 million a year that marked at least a 30-percent increase over the last contract. It was applauded in some corners, criticized in others.

Either way, he won't get a chance to direct that money in the leadup to London.

"We challenged the lethargy that existed with regard to getting 22, 23 medals," Logan said. "We said, 'No, we belong at the 30-medal level.' We have much higher aspirations. I'm my own worst critic, but I'm walking away with my head held high."

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