The University of Texas at Austin has announced that it will collaborate with Montreal's McGill University to digitize the "Richard W. Pound Olympic Collection," and the only bummer is that it's going to take a good long while to see what's in the 400,000 pages that fill 350 or so boxes. Pound, the former World Anti-Doping Agency chief and International Olympic Committee vice-president, is of course well known within Olympic circles for his candor and wit. So there's bound to be some juicy stuff in those boxes.
The collection, which marks a remarkable coup for the Texas Program in Sports and Media, includes not only Pound's papers, among them some 700 printed titles, but his computer files, pretty much anything and everything relating to his years at the Canadian Olympic Committee, the IOC and WADA, dating back to the late 1960s.
Let's see. The investigation into the Salt Lake City corruption scandal. The founding of WADA. The boom years of U.S. marketing and television rights.
"I don't want this thrown in some vault where it's not used," Pound said in a telephone interview. "The purpose is to have available for scholars a resource that is probably unique in North America, perhaps the world …
"The further advantage is because it's mine it's not subject to the organizational limitations," meaning for instance IOC rules about mandatory waits that run to the decades to see certain materials, such as the minutes of executive board meetings.
Now the cautionary note to all this.
There is still going to be some waiting. It's likely going to take months, maybe years, before anyone sees any of this stuff in any significant detail.
Think about how long it takes you to scan stuff on your own home computer. Now think of scanning 400,000 pages. That's what "digitizing" means.
Moreover, some of this stuff is bound to be sensitive; there are bound to be reputation interests that come up. The University of Texas has really good lawyers on staff, and the University of Texas is simply not going to open these files up to just anyone when it might be sued for doing so.
Now, for another of the interesting corollary questions.
After all, Pound would seem to have no obvious connection to Texas, or to Austin.
One, they think creatively there. Woodward and Bernstein's Watergate papers, for instance, are now in Austin.
Two, they have resource. In January, ESPN and the university said they would be launching a new network dedicated solely to all things UT. The deal is worth $300 million over 20 years. The "Longhorn Network," as it will be called, is due to go live later this year.
Three, they have vision. The Texas Program in Sports and Media, announced in late 2009, would seem poised to become an Olympic study center of a sort the United States has arguably never had. (Disclosure: I saw it for myself first-hand last month, invited to Austin to speak to journalism and law school students.)
"The Pound Collection is a gem and will be a great asset to scholars and researchers studying the interface of sports, business, law, broadcast rights and the culture of sports media," said Steven Ungerleider, the program's chair who is also a psychologist and author of the 2001 book "Faust's Gold," an insightful study of the East German sports doping system.
As ever, the last word here ought to go to Pound. When the files finally do get opened up, he said. referring to the IOC, "You can find out whether they served croissants or fruitcake for 30 years."