USOC’s snapshot of stability

Financial documents, it is often said, are boring.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

They provide a wealth of clues about the performance and direction of whatever entity is at issue.

What the U.S. Olympic Committee’s annual tax filing, its Form 990, made public Wednesday, underscores — yet again — is that, under the direction of board chairman Larry Probst and chief executive Scott Blackmun, it has reversed years of chaos and infighting and traded that for security, stability, growth and zero turmoil.

In combination with the medals tallies from the Vancouver 2010 and London 2012 Games — the U.S. teams won the overall counts at both Olympics, with 37 in 2010 and 104 in 2012 — these are, in many ways, glory years for the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Almost totally.

Now comes the next step: the USOC is quietly moving to forge partnerships within the international Olympic movement. Probst is thought to be a candidate for IOC membership, perhaps as soon as this year; meanwhile, he and Blackmun have, since 2010, assiduously been at work at relationship-building, and the USOC is eyeing a bid for the Summer 2024 or Winter 2026 cycle, probably 2024.

All this is rooted in the comfort of the documents that underpin the USOC”s standing.

On the very first page: total revenues of $338.3 million, up from $140.7 million in 2011.  This wide discrepancy is normal, due to the receipt of broadcast revenues in a Games year.

Similarly, expenses were up from $185 million in 2011 to $247 million in 2012 (also, page 1).

Revenues thus exceeded expenses by $91 million.

The timing of the lump-sum broadcast pay-out for the Summer Games forces the the USOC to shelter cash reserves so that it can have sufficient operating cash for the remainder of the four-year Olympic cycle.

The apples-to-apples comparison for 2012 is 2008, the final year of the previous four-year cycle, which in Olympic terms is called a “quadrennium.” USOC revenue in 2008: $280.6 million. At $338.3 million, 2012 revenue marked a 20.5 percent jump.

As a continued sign of the stability the USOC has shown since Probst took over as chairman of the board and Blackmun came on as chief executive, the report lists no severance payments — that is, no former employees were “highly compensated.”

Compare that to the 2010 Form 990, which featured three chief executives on the USOC payroll  — Blackmun, who had been hired that year, along with former executives Jim Scherr and Stephanie Streeter.

Alan Ashley, the USOC”s chief of sport performance, got about a 10 percent raise over 2011 (page 8). Based on the 2012 team’s performance in London — who wants to question that?

Blackmun’s compensation (page 7), breaks down this way: $461,923 salary (page 64), $231,750 bonus (page 64) and $35,664 retirement income (page 64). Then there’s another column of deferred compensation — a long-term performance bonus plus non-taxable retirement and health insurance benefits.

For those tempted to look only at the first column (page 7) next to Blackmun’s name and see the number itself, which says, $729,337, there’s this:

He made less in 2012 — a Summer Olympic year — than he did in 2011. His 2011 total: $742,367. He got paid a bigger bonus in 2011 is mostly why.

Then there’s this for context and comparison:

According to a database published last month by USA Today, here is what various athletic directors around the United States make: Shawn Eichorst, Nebraska: $1.123 million. Barry Alvarez, Wisconsin, $1.143 million. Tom Jurich, Louisville, $1.401 million.

David Williams at Vanderbilt: $3.239 million.

By any measure in the real world, Blackmun is a bargain.

Meanwhile, USA Ski & Snowboard got $4.3 million in grants from the USOC; it earned 21 of the 37 Vancouver medals. At the 2013 alpine world championships, Ted Ligety won three gold medals; Mikaela Shiffrin won the world slalom title; Kikkan Randall is a cross-country medals threat; and more.

USA Swimming got $4.16 million; it won 31 medals in London.

USA Track & FIeld got $4.692 million. It won 29 medals in London.

This is the USOC strategy: to invest in sports likely to bring back results. Given the U.S. team’s world-leading performance in London — all those who want to argue that the swim and track teams did not measure up, line up on the left.

 

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