USOC finances: revenue up, salaries down

When you put competent people in charge and let them do what they know how to do, you get a healthy-looking tax return like the one the United States Olympic Committee made public on Monday morning. Let's face it. Tax returns are, in the main, boring documents. They're black-and-white and full of rows and columns and numbers.

Basically, journalists like to comb through them and pick out salary numbers and go, aha!  Look how much money so-and-so made! That's because, as a rule, journalists don't make anywhere near as much money as the so-and-so's we report on even though we are just as smart as they are, if not smarter (we like to think), and but for our career choices we could be making as much money or more as those so-and-so's if we had only listened to our mothers. As usual, our mothers were right.

Honestly,  that whole process is kind of tired.

What's way more interesting is a macro view of the document, which is formally known as a Form 990. The U.S. government makes an institution like the USOC file it once a year. It comes out every spring.

What this year's version tells you is that, even in a bummer of an economy, the USOC, under the profoundly competent leadership of chief executive Scott Blackmun, and a board of directors led by Larry Probst, is trending in all the right directions. Kudos to them and to the marketing efforts of Lisa Baird and branding efforts of Peter Zeytoonjian.

Revenue (page 10): $250.6 million.

Against expenses (page 11): $191.6 million.

A reminder for any and all who are not familiar with the essential principle of the USOC's financial life. Virtually every other national Olympic committee in the world is supported by its own federal government. Not the USOC. By order of the U.S. Congress, the USOC must be self-supporting. Every dime, every dollar  -- everything -- it gets, it must generate on its own initiative.

Back to the form:

As compared to his predecessor, Stephanie Streeter, Blackmun's compensation is down 49 percent (page 53, and the prior year's Form 990).

Total salaries paid to the chief executive, the chief operating offer, the chief financial officer, the chief marketing officer and the general counsel, as compared to the 2009 totals: down 23 percent (page 53, and the prior year's Form 990).

Same group's total compensation: down 42 percent in 2010 from 2009 (again, page 53, and the prior year's Form 990).

For purposes of this discussion, there is a key difference between salary and total compensation, meaning the full package that includes benefits such as insurance and in some cases relocation assistance.

A couple other notes:

Of the top five independent contractors, three were direct mail companies (page 8). In our internet era, one wonders how much longer that will continue to be the case.

The single largest contributor to the USOC? Logically enough, the city of Colorado Springs, Colo., where the USOC is based ($19.75 million, page 21). The USOC, of course, has moved into a new headquarters building in downtown Colorado Springs.

USA Track & Field got a $4.4 million grant. Lots of national governing bodies get grants -- that's the way the system works. It makes sense that USATF gets the most money, far and away, because it's the glamor sport of the Summer Games. (U.S. Ski  & Snowboard, which rules the Winter Games, justifiably got the second-most, about $3.87 million.) Here's a thought: For $4.4 million, the American relay teams had really better learn to hold on to the batons in London in 2012. There's no excuse.

Just a thought to close. It is indeed the case that $250 million is a lot of money. What, one wonders, do you think the number is on the revenue column at the Chinese Olympic Committee's annual report?

It would be fantastic if Beijing -- and for that matter, every national Olympic committee around the world -- made these same sorts of facts and figures publicly available, wouldn't it?