Nine months after firing CEO Doug Logan, Indianapolis-based USA Track & Field is still looking to fill its top job.
Officials had hoped to have a replacement named well in advance of the U.S. Track & Field Championships June 23-26 in Oregon, but that’s not going to happen.
Steve Miller, the board member who is leading the search committee to find a new CEO, told the Chicago Tribune recently that he hopes to present a CEO candidate to the board at its meetings during the national championships later this month.
But sources close to the sport's governing body said there are signs that board members can’t agree on who will make a suitable replacement for Logan, and that one of their own is increasingly interested in the job.
“This has been a lot more protracted than I imagined,” Miller told the Tribune. “We can’t afford to fail, and in our desire to get this right, we have gone around and around.”
Miller thought he had the perfect candidate earlier this year, but after several interviews, University of Oregon track coach Vin Lananna decided to stay at his current job.
USATF officials won’t say who is being considered for the position, but track and field sources said board member Stephanie Hightower has strong interest in the job. Hightower could not be reached for comment.
Greg Harger, who operates an Indianapolis-based track and field team comprised of Olympic hopefuls, thinks Hightower’s interest in the job is part of the reason USATF is having difficulty finding a leader.
“I think people in this sport know she’s interested, and that has potential to undermine the process,” Harger said.
Hiring a board member as CEO runs counter to new policies the U.S. Olympic Committee has asked U.S. sports federations to follow. The policies include not allowing non-paid board members to transition into paid staff. Another calls for security in the role of CEO.
Miller told the Tribune there are three options if a candidate can’t be found soon: Keep interim CEO Mike McNees, USATF’s chief financial officer, in place through the 2012 London Olympics; name Hightower as interim CEO; or allow the agency to operate temporarily without a CEO.
In the meantime, Harger said the transition seems to be leading to lots of confusion.
“It looks like a real struggle to put things in order there,” Harger said. “We’re in the qualifying window for the Olympics and it’s not been published when that window begins or what the qualifying standards are. [USATF leaders] have a lot of work to do to get themselves re-organized.”
At least USATF has ended a fight with its former CEO. In April, USATF settled a lawsuit with Logan, who sued to have the balance of his contract—about $1.7 million—paid to him after he was suddenly dismissed last September. Details of the settlement were not disclosed.