Doug Logan

Smart USOC executive play

Here's why the U.S. Olympic Committee is trending in all the right directions under chief executive Scott Blackmun. On Wednesday, the USOC announced an executive team re-shuffle, keynoted by the hiring of Benita Fitzgerald Mosley as what's called the "chief of organizational excellence," in essence chief operating officer.

Fitzgerald Mosley, 51, comes back to the USOC from USA Track & Field, where she was chief of sport performance. Last summer in London, the U.S. track team won 29 medals -- one shy of the audacious Project 30 goal set out by former USATF chief executive Doug Logan, who hired Fitzgerald Mosley and then charged her to see it through.

Fitzgerald Mosley is the real deal, one of the most intelligent, articulate and capable executives in the United States. That's right -- any business, not just sports. It is the USOC's good fortune that she is working in the Olympic movement, and that she thoroughly understands not just the scope and nature of its mission but, as well, all its component pieces.

It is a coup for Blackmun to get her back in Colorado Springs, Colo., the USOC's longtime base.

For emphasis: it is the USOC's gain and, candidly, USATF's loss.

Fitzgerald Mosley is the 1984 Olympic 100-meter hurdles gold medalist. She served the USOC previously as director of its Chula Vista, Calif., Olympic Training Center (1995-97), of all three USOC Training Centers (1997-2000) and of its public relations programs (2000-01).

From 2001-09, she was was president and chief executive of Women in Cable Telecommunications.

"I'm excited about working with Scott," Fitzgerald Mosley said, simply, in a telephone interview from Des Moines, Iowa, where the U.S. track and field national championships are underway.

She is due to take up her new position in August.

"I'm extraordinarily excited about this addition to our team," Blackmun said in a statement. "We have to ensure that we continue to evolve as an organization and hold ourselves to the same standards as our athletes, and Benita will help us do just that."

For one thing, what Fitzgerald Mosley will do is bring an athlete's perspective to executive-level meetings in the Springs. Everyone else in that room might think they know what an athlete wants or needs. Fitzgerald Mosley knows for sure. That's invaluable.

For another, Fitzgerald Mosley brings diversity. There's no getting around this. She is African-American. She is female. Blackmun has repeatedly pledged that enhancing diversity is a USOC priority, and Fitzgerald Mosley's hiring is proof that the USOC is not just talking the talk.

"He and I certainly didn't talk about that," Fitzgerald Mosley said, adding, "I certainly recognize that's a plus in my hiring. Breaking through barriers or at least overcoming them is something I'm used to doing as hurdler."

Blackmun has plenty this 2013 on his plate, in particular the contours of a potential 2024 Summer Games bid and the search for a chief development officer who could multiply fund-raising levels. Practically speaking, that means Fitzgerald Mosley is going to have plenty to do, too -- again, a smart play by Blackmun.

Unlike some chief executives who are control freaks, Blackmun is more than confident enough in himself to hire someone as capable as Fitzgerald Mosley, to not be threatened by her and to trust her and and the rest of his team to get their jobs done. This is the winning culture he has helped create at the USOC since coming on board in January, 2010.

Take note of this USOC statement:

"Fitzgerald Mosley will oversee a number of organizational priorities that will utilize her unique perspective, including athlete career programs and the athlete ombudsman's office. Additionally, she will assume many of the responsibilities of outgoing Chief Administrative Officer Kirsten Volpi, including diversity and inclusion, human resources, facilities, NGB organizational development, security, and strategic planning."

Volpi is leaving the USOC to return to the Colorado School of Mines, in Golden, Colo., west of Denver, where she previously served as chief financial officer.

In other changes:

USOC chief financial office Walt Glover will take on further responsibility for information technology and audit. He will report to Blackmun.

Rick Adams has been named chief of sport operations and NGB relations. He will add oversight of the three Olympic Training Centers to his NGB organizational development portfolio. He will report to Fitzgerald Mosley.

Mike English, who had been chief of sport operations, is leaving.


New USATF CEO: Max Siegel

USA Track & Field announced Monday that Max Siegel, the marketing consultant it had hired last October, was now its new chief executive officer. Can't say that's much of a surprise.

The question, as ever with track and field in the United States, is its future. During the last week of the Olympic Games, it commands TV time and headlines; the rest of the time, not so much.

Years ago, though, track and field used to be a major sport in the United States. Now it's not. Can it ever be again?

The corollary question for the people who run track and field in the United States -- not Siegel but the people he now will have to deal with on a day-to day, real-life basis -- is whether they will let him do his job.

Here's my dream for the sport: The U.S. Olympic Trials in Cowboys Stadium, with 100,000 people jamming the place, night after night. Why not?

Here's Siegel's mantra: to make a difference in American culture, with the idea of  competition on the field impacting lifestyle, and -- as he put it in a conference call with reporters -- to "over-deliver" to corporate partners "on their expectations."

Siegel takes over from Doug Logan, fired in September, 2010. USATF has been without a chief executive since; Stephanie Hightower, the federation president, had let it be known in an interview with the Chicago Tribune's Philip Hersh that she might be interested in the position, which of course proved problematic.

University of Oregon coach Vin Lananna reportedly emerged as a top candidate for the position. He's still in Eugene.

All the while, Mike McNees, USATF's chief operating officer, a wholly decent guy, was left to run the ship as interim CEO.

Skeptics, of course, will suggest that the hire of Siegel is proof that no one else wanted the USATF chief executive's job.

You know what's great about covering this kind of thing in track and field? You can't spell dysfunctional without f-u-n!

To the credit of the U.S. athletes -- all they do is go out and win. They pretty much ignore this stuff at the world championships and the Olympics. The U.S. team won 25 medals at last summer's world championships at Daegu, South Korea, one shy of the 26 won by the 1991 and 2007 teams.

Even so, everyone close to the sport understands that better governance might lead to even better results on the field of play.

Logan had said all along that 30 in 2012 was eminently do-able.

To his credit, Siegel said Monday on a conference call with reporters, "We have said 30 medals. And we are sticking by 30 medals."

Getting to 30 medals takes contributions from both the business and culture sides of USATF. That takes a profound understanding. That's what Siegel has been doing since October, taking what he called a "deep dive" into the organization, doing a "lot of the foundational and behind the scenes" work.

That sort of understanding, Hightower said on that same conference call, is what made him an attractive candidate.

Along with the fact that Siegel is truly an idea guy; that he has big-time credentials in auto racing and the music industry; as well as experience and contact in the Olympic scene as a member of the boards of U.S. swimming and USATF.

The perception glitch all along, of course, had been that Siegel had been on the USATF board -- until resigning just a month before -- before being hired as a consultant.

Hightower emphasized that he was not on the board when selected. Steve Miller, a USATF board vice-chair, said on the call, "Perception can go two ways. It can be seen as a negative and as a, why not? What we tried to concentrate on is, why?

"… We feel confident we went through the process … and Max simply was the best candidate."

The hire takes effect May 1. His base salary will be $500,000. He also can earn bonuses, Hightower said on the call without providing details.

Siegel notably becomes the only African-American chief executive among the more than three dozen national governing bodies in the United States.

U.S. Olympic Committee chief executive Scott Blackmun issued a statement that said, "Our relationship with USA Track & Field is very good, and we are particularly pleased with the partnership that we have with them on the high performance side. Having a CEO in place will add a measure of stability as we complete our preparations for London. Max will have our full support and we look forward to working with USATF as they continue to refine their governance model and find ways to enhance the effectiveness of the organization."

Candidly, the USOC -- which for years set the standard for dysfunction -- is arguably now the model for good governance. The USOC board, under the direction of Larry Probst, sets policy and then lets Blackmun run the organization day-to-day.

That's the way things need to go down now at USATF. On the call, they said all the rights things Monday. They said Siegel would have authority.

Hightower said on the call, "We want to become a model NGB as it relates to best practices and model governance," Hightower said on the call.

"I don't want to say we're going to agree on every single aspect on how this organization is going to be run."

She also said, "We trust Max's leadership to move us forward."

Hightower said the time of "chaos" -- "that time is gone, it's over."

One might hope of course that the U.S. relay teams hold on to the baton at the 2012 Games. But should the stick clatter to the ground, could one predict chaos? Would it really be over?

Time, as ever, will tell.

USATF boldly does something right

Wait. What's this? USA Track & Field, arguably the most dysfunctional of all major American Olympic sports federations, maybe getting something not just right but possibly taking an ambitious step to profoundly reshape the future direction of the sport in the United States and even worldwide? For real.

In announcing Monday that it had retained Indianapolis-based Max Siegel Inc. as part of a wide-ranging plan to restructure its marketing and communications efforts, USATF boldly steps into the 21st century.

Siegel is a guy who gets the vision thing, the commercial thing and the relationship thing. USATF needs precisely that sort of help.

No recitation of Siegel's extraordinary life story and career seems to do it justice. Here's a very short take:

He has represented the likes of pro football star Reggie White and baseball great Tony Gwynn. Siegel was president of global operations at Dale Earnhardt Inc. and a senior executive at Sony/BMG, serving on the executive team overseeing pop stars such as Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Usher and then gospel greats such as Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond and Donnie McClurkin.

Now he is has his own race team, Revolution Racing, and it wins. His company, MSI, represents sports figures and organizations. It creates literary, television and film properties, including the 2010 BET Network series, "Changing Lanes," and the ESPN documentary, "Wendell Scott: A Race Story."

In short, Siegel is a winner across sports, sponsorship and entertainment lines.

The freaky thing is that Siegel actually wants to help USATF.

When he assesses track and field, he said in an interview, "I see all these heroes and I see the opportunity to expand the brand."

USATF has tried substantive change in the not-too-distant past. It hired Doug Logan, a change agent, to be its chief executive officer; soon enough, it didn't like the changes Logan proposed; it then fired the agent.

Other Olympic bodies, of course, have also gone outside the so-called "Olympic family" with similarly dim results.

The U.S. Olympic Committee, for instance, turned twice over the past 10 years to outsiders for its chief executive position -- Stephanie Streeter and Lloyd Ward. Each lasted a short time.

Critically, Siegel is not being hired to run USATF itself.

Again, he is not being hired as CEO.

For emphasis, USATF has an interim chief executive, Mike McNees, who has kept things moving steadily, quietly forward, seeking little screen credit.

Nothing gets done in the Olympic world without relationships. Siegel is a former director on the USATF board and the USA Swimming Foundation; he has ties to other Olympic sports as well. If you were paying attention at the USOC assembly last month in Colorado Springs, you saw him there and might have wondered why. Now you know.

The CEO thing is an entirely separate discussion at USATF. What's at issue now is that, like a patient in therapy, USATF realized that it might, you know, actually help itself -- in this case, its business model -- if it just acknowledged it first had a problem and was then willing to do something constructively about it.

Here is the problem:

The sport is stagnant in the United States.

The release USATF issued Monday says that engaging Siegel's company is part of a "broad, fully integrated service agreement that will unite USATF's commercial ventures" and that "streamlines its internal staff structure in marketing and communications."

Translation: major culture change.

They're actually going to throw some resource at the problem -- pulling together staff from five separate departments, for instance, to work together with Siegel's firm -- with the intent of making some real money by expanding the reach of USATF's commercial efforts in marketing, sponsorship, publicity, membership and broadcasting.

All of that.

To reiterate: USATF is thinking big. Finally.

Jill Geer, the longtime communications chief at USATF, who through thick and thin has always been outstanding in not just her dedication but performance, will oversee all of this. As a sign of just how serious this is, she and her family are moving from New England to Indianapolis.

To reference "culture" again -- track and field shines during the second week of the Summer Games and then all but disappears for pretty much the next three years and 50 weeks. That has to change. Siegel gets it -- that track and field has to again become part of our national discussion.

That's not going to happen overnight. It may not even happen by the start of the London Games. These things take time.

Siegel understands we live now in a culture where reality-TV rocks the ratings. Why not, for instance, a "making the U.S. team" series?

How about the notion of staging a specialty event -- say women's high-jumping, in Vegas, to the back beat of rock or hip-hop music?

Street racing might be cool. How about down Bourbon Street in New Orleans? Or Navy Pier in Chicago?

Anything and everything that might work has to be and should be up for discussion.

Look, two things.

One, the world championships in track and field have never been held in the United States.

Two, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The percentage of children aged 6 to 11 in the United States who were obese went from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 20 percent in 2008. Over the same period, the percentage of adolescents -- ages 12 to 19 -- who were obese increased from 5 percent to 18 percent, according to the CDC.

That is obscene.

Track and field is the easiest way to start getting a fix on that, because the great majority of those young people can put on a pair of shoes and start walking and then running. And if Max Siegel, who is big on getting tastemakers on board to help impact our popular culture, can do it -- bravo.

"I think this is a two- to five-year fix," he said, referring specifically to USATF -- not, this must be stressed, the nation's obesity issues.

"Year one is restoring the credibility and solidifying the relationship with the core fans and core stakeholders. For me, no matter what you do, there are critics. I think it's going to take points on the board to achieve credibility and get the trust built back up.

"The second phase is to build brand equity," USATF revamping its television strategy in particular.

Phase Three, he said, while always emphasizing service to the "core constituency," can also include a turn toward "new and innovative things."

He said, "I have been a firm believe that sports and entertainment when used properly is a very powerful way to impact culture.

"You've got have something meaningful," and the best news of all for track and field in the United States would be if, finally, it were again -- year-round, day-after-day -- meaningful.

'...Big things' for 2011 U.S. track team

DAEGU, South Korea -- Christian Taylor, 21 years old, won the triple jump Sunday at the 2011 track championships with an audacious leap of 17.96 meters, 58 feet, 11 1/4 inches, the fifth-best in history. He declared afterward, in the tone of a respectful competitor, not a jerk, "I came to win." Will Claye is just 20 years old. Both Claye and Taylor were going to be seniors at the University of Florida until turning pro. What are the odds that these would be the two guys finishing 1-3 at the worlds in the same event? Yet that's what happened, Claye jumping a personal-best 17.5, or 57-5. He said, "We came out here, did our best and ended up doing big things."

The American team did, indeed, do big things.

First and foremost, it topped the medal table, with 25, the second-highest medal total at a worlds for Team USA, one shy of the 26 won by the 1991 and 2007 teams.

But for the thoroughly unexpected, the American team actually could have reached the elusive 30 mark, which would have been sweet validation indeed for Doug Logan, the vanquished former chief executive of USA Track & Field, who had said all along that 30 was eminently do-able -- only to get sent packing before the plans he had put in place to get to 30 could be realized.

The Americans put four men in the final 12 in shot put, an event the U.S. has dominated in recent years. None got a medal. The U.S. has also been strong in the 400-meter men's hurdles; no medals there in Daegu despite two finalists. The Americans took home no medals in pole-vaulting, men's or women's, a traditional strength.

And, once again, in the very last event of the championships, the men's 400 relay, an event won by the Jamaicans -- anchored by Usain Bolt -- in world-record time, 37.04, the American men did not get through without disaster.

The 2008 Olympics, the 2009 world champs and now these 2011 worlds -- all DQs. This one involved a collision on the final exchange involving American Darvis Patton and Britain's Harry Aikines-Aryeetey. Details, even after repeated viewings of the tape, remain sketchy.

"I felt his big knee in my arm," Aikines-Aryeetey said in a television interview.

Under no circumstances would the Americans have beaten the Jamaicans. Even so, Justin Gatlin, who had run the second leg, said, "You can't tell me we weren't going to set an American record."

Stepping back to assess the U.S. team's "big things" over the nine days of the meet:

The 12 medals won by the U.S. women are the most-ever; the 1993 team won 11.

Allyson Felix didn't win individual gold in her 200/400 double. But she did win silver in the 400, bronze in the 200 and gold in both the 400 and 1600 relays. Four is the most medals ever won by a woman at one meet; American Gwen Torrance, Kathrin Krabbe of Germany and Marita Koch of East Germany also won four.

If Felix had been a country, the four medals she won would have tied her for seventh on the 2011 medals chart.

Also: those four medals lift Felix's career world-championships total won to 10. That ties her with Carl Lewis for most medals won by an American.

Jenny Simpson, 25 and still a newlywed (last October), won the first gold for the United States in the women's 1500 since 1983. Then, a couple days later, Matthew Centrowitz, 21, a fifth-year senior at Oregon, won bronze in the 1500.

The U.S. men swept the high jump, long jump and triple jump golds. The U.S. men -- Trey Hardee and Ashton Eaton -- went 1-2 in the decathlon. Dwight Phillips' long jump victory was his fourth at the worlds, to go along with his 2004 Olympic gold.

Phillips is 33, turning 34 in October. Bernard Lagat, who took silver Sunday night in the 5000, is 36, turning 37 in December. Lagat is the 2007 5000 and 1500 champ and, as well, the 2009 1500 bronze and 5000 silver medalist; he won silver at the 2004 Games in Athens when he was still running for Kenya.

Lagat, Phillips, Simpson, Centrowitz -- they illustrate the mix of veteran and younger talent that made up this team. That same sort of mix is likely to be on display next year for the United States track team at the Olympics in London.

"If Jenny can do it … if Matt can do it … if Bernard can still do it … I'm proud of my team," Lagat said.

Taylor, asked about the U.S. men sweeping the jumps, said, "It's about time. That's what I would say. Like I said, to have Dwight in the same group and having that family -- you know it's like, I wouldn't say a brother, but he's kind of old, so kind of like a dad! I mean, it's just been a great experience.

"The U.S. definitely represented and showed the world that we are the best team in the world."

So -- what does this performance here in Daegu mean for London?

Maybe a lot and perhaps very little.

LaShawn Merritt, the 2008 400 gold medalist, took silver in the event here and anchored the gold medal-winning 1600 relay. His future remains uncertain pending the outcome of litigation stemming from a 21-month doping-related suspension he has already served.

Tyson Gay, who had been America's best 100 and 200 sprinter, was hurt. Jeremy Wariner, the 2004 400 gold medalist -- hurt. Chris Solinsky, the 10,000-meter American record-holder -- hurt. Bryan Clay, the 2008 Olympic decathlon champ -- hurt. Standout hurdler Lolo Jones -- hurt. None of them competed here.

Do any or all of them make it to London? No one can predict.

Who knows whether Gay, who has struggled to stay healthy, can get fit?

Beyond which -- the brutal nature of the U.S. Trials, in which you're top-three or you stay home -- allows for no sentiment.

Just ask Phillips. He finished fourth at the Trials in 2008.

Or Simpson. "I mean, all this can do is bolster my confidence," she said.

But now Daegu is over, and London awaits. And she said, "I'm very cognizant of the fact this doesn't mean that I'm any shoo-in for any race following this."

Team USA's "unbelievably encouraging" swim worlds

SHANGHAI -- As the race unfolded, it wasn't a question of whether Ryan Lochte would win the 400-meter individual medley. It was by how much. In 2011, he's just that much better than everyone else. After three of the four segments in the race, he was a stunning three seconds ahead of the other American in the race, Tyler Clary, who was in second place.

Lochte went on to win, in 4:07.13, with Clary  four seconds back, capping the final night of the 2011 swimming world championships, a night that not only saw a second world record -- China's Sun Yang, in the men's 1500 meters -- but also saw the American team again assert its dominance.

Remember former USA Track & Field chief executive Doug Logan, and his ambitious goal of seeing the American track team win 30 medals in London next year?

Here, the U.S. swim team won 29. That's seven better than it won at the 2009 world championships in Rome.

In Beijing, at the 2008 Games, the U.S. swim team won 31 medals, 12 gold. The track team may still get the love from the traditionalists but the plain, hard fact is that it's the swim team that carries the U.S. medals count. It did in Beijing and it's all but sure to do so in London, too.

In a twist, the American dominance in Shanghai can be attributed in large measure to the American women, who came on strong across the board, and in particular to the emergence of 16-year-old Missy Franklin.

In Rome, the American women took home only eight medals -- two gold, three silver, three bronze.

Here: 13 total -- eight gold, two silver, three bronze.

With Franklin yelling, "Let's go, USA!" in the stands, Jessica Hardy won gold Sunday night in the 50 breaststroke, a poignant victory after her suspension for inadvertently ingesting a contaminated supplement, with Rebecca Soni -- who earlier had won the 100 and 200 breaststroke races -- taking third. Then Elisabeth Beisel won the women's 400 IM.

"It was great by [Saturday] night and just got greater tonight," the U.S. women's head coach, Jack Bauerle, said when it was all over.

The sudden depth of the U.S. women's program was most evident in the medley relay Saturday, when Franklin anchored a victory in American-record time. That prompted Natalie Coughlin to post afterward to her Twitter feed, "Yay. Gold medal, 4x100 MR. 10 yrs on that relay & 1st GOLD."

The depth on display in Shanghai, moreover, doesn't even factor in a whole host of college swimmers or the likes of Dara Torres or Janet Evans.

Pointing toward London, it's "unbelievably encouraging," Bauerle said.

As for the men -- well, the performances that Lochte and Phelps threw down are surely encouraging.

Lochte won five gold medals and set a world record -- the first since the plastic suits went away at the start of 2010 -- in the 200 IM, edging out Phelps in the race by 16-hundredths of a second.

Asked to reflect on his performance, Lochte said, and he was being dead serious, "I'm not happy. I know I can go a lot faster."

This is the mental key to Lochte's success. "I don't really think I'm the top dog," he explained, adding that no matter what he might accomplish, immediately afterward, "I knock myself right down to the bottom of the totem pole." So, looking toward London, "I have a whole year to work hard, train hard, to get back up there to the top. As far as I'm concerned right now, I'm at the bottom."

Phelps on Sunday night put the American men in position to win the medley relay with his butterfly split; Nathan Adrian swam the winning anchor leg.

Over the course of his week here, Phelps won both the 100 and 200 flys; he also took part in two winning relays; so that's four golds. He took two silvers, both behind Lochte, in the 200 IM and the 200 free; and he was part of the bronze-winning 400 free relay.

In all, that's seven medals -- the most won by anyone here. Over his extraordinary career, Phelps has won 26 gold and 33 world championship medals; both are records.

The medley marked Phelps' last world championship swim. He has vowed that the London Games will see the end of his competitive swimming career. He said in a Twitter post that it was "wild" to think that Shanghai was his last worlds -- his first was in 2001, in Japan -- and "amazing" to finish with a gold medal.

At a news conference, Phelps again made the point that 2011 is a warm-up for 2012. Once more, he said it's time to buckle down:

"I said this 100 times this week and I'll say it 100 more. To swim fast you've got to be in good shape. Ryan is clearly working hard and is clearly in the best shape he has probably ever been [in]. That's why he's swimming how he is. You know, I just need to get back to what I did to get to where I am, and that's hard work and not giving up, and that really is the biggest key for me over the next 12 months."

The challenge for the American men is obviously not Lochte and Phelps.

It's this:

Clary won that silver in the 400 IM and a bronze in the 200 backstroke, both behind Lochte.

Tyler McGill took third in the 100 fly, behind Phelps.

Nobody else won anything.

To be fair, stuff happens. Adrian, for instance, who finished fourth in the 50 free, touched the wall one-hundredth of a second from third place. Nobody's blaming him for that -- that would be ridiculous.

Traditionally, though, the U.S. men are strong in the breaststroke and in a race such as the 100 back. "We know where we've got to get better," the U.S. men's coach, Eddie Reese, said Sunday night.

As for the inevitable -- before the "how many golds can Lochte win in London?" chatter gets overwhelming, remember that the eight Phelps won in Beijing broke down to five individual events and three relays.

One step further: The American men would seem a safe bet for 2012 in two of those relay, the 800 free and medley.

As for the 400 free, though, the one in which Jason Lezak saved the house in 2008 -- the Australians, led by James Magnussen, smoked the Americans in Shanghai. Magnussen went on to win the open 100 here as well. He is a force, and he's just 20 years old.

Magnussen swam the lead-off leg for the Aussies; Eamon Sullivan the anchor. After watching the destruction, Reese had said, "After we saw the first guy from Australia, we didn't know he could stay out there, that they'd stay out there. Their anchor man's got such a great history. He's the guy that scared me on the relay, more so than their lead-off man. But he now scares me more."

On Sunday night, Reese observed, "The world is getting better."

Before the Americans even get to Magnussen and the Aussies, they have to get by the French; after all, the U.S. finished third in that 400 relay, not second.

There's a year for the Americans themselves to get better. And maybe to find new talent. America's college ranks are filled with up-and-coming swimmers, too, Reese said; the U.S. nationals take place in just a few days.

It makes swim freaks geeked up already for the U.S. Trials next summer in Omaha. "I think," Reese said, "it's going to be the best meet any of us have ever seen."

USOC: 'an exciting new time'

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- After Larry Probst and Scott Blackmun had given first-rate speeches to the hundreds gathered here at the Antlers Hilton hotel for the U.S. Olympic Committee's annual assembly, the two senior USOC officials, with a gaggle of reporters in tow, found a small room just off the big ballroom for an impromptu news conference. This was the Jackson Room, named not for the seventh president but for a 19th-century Colorado photographer. A big wooden table dominated Mr. William Jackson's room. Blackmun took one of the blue chairs on one side of the table, Probst the chair right next to him.

Probst, in his shirt and tie, jacket off, leaned back in the chair, waiting for the first question. The two of them hadn't yet said a word in this little clutch but their body language said everything: relaxed, calm, comfortable, confident, in charge.

What a difference a year makes.

And what buzz around what traditionally has been a lackluster, even dreary, event.

This year, the scene at the assembly and its related programs was marked with energy, enthusiasm and a distinct sense of inclusion, from the opening reception Wednesday (a packed house swarming the bruschetta and the fried shrimp, and how about the support of that Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau!) through the wrap-up meetings Saturday.

The catch phrase that appeared on the literature the USOC distributed here read "one team," and that sentiment seemed to strike home.

One example from among many: Dick Ebersol, the NBC Universal Sports & Olympics chairman who last autumn was a vocal USOC critic, delivered the keynote address Friday night. Probst introduced him as "our good friend and partner."

Another example: Mark Emmert, the incoming NCAA president, made a joint appearance Thursday morning with Blackmun and while they didn't announce any major initiatives, it didn't matter; the point was that the guys in charge of the USOC and NCAA were on stage together.

"I have said this repeatedly: I am more enthusiastic about this organization and this movement today than I have been at any point in the last 10 years," Dave Ogrean, the executive director of USA Hockey, said at a cocktail party Friday night.

"The best presentation I have heard in my 32 years of association with the USOC by its leaders," a former USOC spokesman, Mike Moran, posted on his Facebook page, referring to the Probst and Blackmun speeches to the assembly. "Candid, on the money and substantial."

Donna de Varona, the Olympic swim gold medalist turned sportscaster and women's- and athletes'-rights activist, called the meeting the "most inclusive, visionary and inspirational gathering in the history of the U.S. movement."

A pause: the USOC's history is filled with much-documented starts, stops, missteps and missed opportunities.

One also must note that the success of the moment hardly guarantees anything in the future. See above: USOC starts, stops, missteps, etc.

Even so, this assembly made for a great convention, and it would thus be irresponsible for the reasonable observer not to relate the obvious: There is a renewed sense of optimism and can-do within and around the USOC, and it's primarily because of leadership. That means Probst, the USOC chairman, and Blackmun, the chief executive.

"Larry has not only found his role but his voice," Doug Logan, the outgoing USA Track & Field executive, said in an interview. "And Scott is not only doing the right things and saying the right things but saying them with the right inflection."

From the daïs Friday evening, Ebersol, referring to Probst and Blackmun, said, "Let me say very clearly: congratulations for the start of this incredible turnaround. We are very lucky we have your leadership. And we hope we have it for a very long time."

It was last Oct. 2 that the International Olympic Committee delivered its humiliating verdict on Chicago's 2016 chances -- out, despite the personal lobbying in Copenhagen by President Obama himself, in the first round, with only 18 votes. Later that day, Rio de Janeiro would win going away.

A lot of things that had bubbling for a lot of time led to that vote, which Probst in his speech here Friday called, among other terms, "devastating." Some of it involved the USOC's complex relationship with the IOC. Some of it revolved around the USOC itself.

The criticism and turmoil that ensued afterward produced weeks, indeed months, of reflection and re-engineering -- institutional and, for Probst in particular, personal.

Stephanie Streeter, the USOC's acting chief executive, stepped down; Blackmun, who had been a candidate for the CEO job nearly 10 years ago, got the job this time and said Friday that "in retrospect I am grateful to be standing here now instead of then."

Why? Because then the USOC "wasn't structured to succeed." Now, Blackmun said in his assembly speech, "I am filled with optimism about the future of our American Olympic family, and in particular about the future of the USOC."

In part that's because of Blackmun himself. He is modest and speaks softly. The staff loves him.

In part that's because of Probst. He weathered furious criticism after Copenhagen, then -- as Blackmun put it -- "stepped forward to listen" and learn. As the senior USOC official, and thus its key protocol figure, he has since been traveling the world, meeting with IOC members, with plans in the coming weeks to go to Mexico, Japan, China and Serbia, among others.

"It's a relationship business," Blackmun, who is also a frequent flier, said. "We have to start by being present."

Finally, there's the way Probst and Blackmun work together. To simplify something that by its nature is more complex, indeed laden with nuance: Probst hired Blackmun to be in charge, and Probst lets Blackmun run the USOC.

The two get together by phone every Tuesday morning. Of course they trade emails and make other calls as warranted. "There is a high level of communication between us," Probst said in Mr. Jackson's room, adding, "Having said that, he is the CEO and I have no intention of being the CEO of the USOC."

In his speech, Probst said, "We are being honest and open and present and I believe we are on the right track," and while he was referring specifically to the USOC's international outreach, he could have been speaking of so much more.

Ebersol said, "I knew I was coming here for what is really an exciting new time for the United States Olympic Committee and for the Olympic movement in the United States. Just think: a year ago that would have been unthinkable, absolutely unthinkable."

USATF drops Logan - but why?

Anyone who has ever studied a little history discovers the "star chamber," the ancient English panel. It purported to deliver justice. In fact, its verdicts were often rooted in petty politics and court intrigue. Now comes the dismissal of Doug Logan, chief executive  at USA Track & Field. The action was announced Monday after a meeting over the weekend in Las Vegas of the USATF board of directors.

Sayeth the privy counsellors, figuratively now: Off with his head!

Um, for what, exactly?

It's not at all clear.

Which is why it's so perplexing.

And why it deserves to draw the most intense scrutiny -- from the U.S. Olympic Committee; from track and field's worldwide governing body, the International Assn. of Athletics Federations; and from anyone and everyone who cares about what traditionally has proven the No. 1 sport in the Summer Games.

USATF has been riven for years by a welter of competing agendas.

Certain personalities have long exercised a disproportionate influence in the way things get done.

Complicating the situation, the division between the volunteer board and paid staff  has not been always respected and, indeed, observed.

A reform plan -- launched at the 2008 USATF annual meeting in Reno, Nev. -- was supposed to have gone a long way toward solving all of that.

But the board's action over the weekend is bound -- and ought -- to raise questions about whether, in fact, that is the case.

Logan, with extensive experience in promoting sports and music, was hired 26 months ago to be a change agent.

What, you hire a guy to effect change and he effects change and you don't like it because he effects change? Is that, simply put, what happened?

The USATF-issued statement announcing Logan's departure was preposterously vague, board chair Stephanie Hightower saying in it that the board had decided it was "in our best interests to engage different leadership to move the sport forward."

In a telephone interview Monday, Hightower said, "Just give us a fair chance."

Asked why the board had opted to take the controversial move of cutting ties with Logan, she said, "I wouldn't categorize it as a controversial decision.

"I would categorize it as the board has a fiduciary responsibility and oversight responsibility to make sure the organization is moving forward in an aggressive and accelerated manner."

Hightower is exceedingly intelligent. She is an accomplished professional. Taking her at her word and giving her, and the board, a fair chance: what does what she said mean?

Specifics, please.

If it's the case that Logan was deemed to have failed in regards to USATF's financial stewardship, how so?

Because he didn't bring in sponsors left and right? In only 26 months?

If that's the basis of the decision, is that really a valid point given that the listless American economy is drawing comparisons to the 1930s?

Is someone else supposed to do better? With not even a year to go before the world championships in South Korea? With under two to go until the 2012 London Olympics?

At the risk of seeming skeptical after a dozen years of covering USATF, mindful that post-Reno the federation had asserted the intent to be more about boring institutional governance stuff with fewer personality-politics dramas:

If the decision was that someone else simply had to be brought in, wouldn't that necessarily suggest that a new person would face a steep learning curve?

Unless that person is already well connected within track and field circles, right?

Which would suggest, wouldn't it, that he or she might already know well some or all of the important people within USATF?

Now: would those sorts of connections inspire more or less confidence in the ability of the new person to do his or her job without interference or manipulation?

At any rate:

If financial stewardship isn't the central issue in Logan's tenure, what then might it be? That U.S. teams botched the relays at the 2008 Games and the 2009 worlds? Logan put in a plan to fix that. That the U.S. team could and should win more medals in London than it did in Beijing? Logan put in a plan to fix that.

Any reasonable observer knows full well that the performance plan is on track for London and 2012.

What, then, could it be?

Moreover, why take such a dramatic step -- knowing full well that it's bound to raise these sorts of questions -- without providing answers?

You don't have to be an expert in sign-reading to understand the signal of support the IAAF had sent Friday, just one day before Logan appeared before the USATF board in Vegas, the worldwide governing body announcing it had appointed Logan to its "School/Youth Commission."

Who cares whether that commission is effective or even meaningful? The meaning is that Logan had the support of IAAF president Lamine Diack. And USATF wants to take him on because -- why?

In perhaps the same vein:

USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun said Monday in a phone call, "There has been a lot of instability in the Olympic movement -- this is our third Summer NGB to replace an executive director in the last three months," track and field joining triathlon and fencing, "and I'm concerned about that."

For his part, Logan said Monday on the phone that he could say little because he was "in a dialogue with USATF about my separation," and "out of respect for that process I don't want to discuss what's going on."

He did say he truly loved the sport: "I am reminded of the Eagles and 'Hotel California': 'You can check out but you can never leave,' " adding, "I am extremely proud of my record. In the blink of an eye, 26 months, we went through extraordinary change, some of which I thought was lasting … and difficult to go through.

"… I will," he said, "have more things to say at a future time."

One can hardly wait for a full airing. The books, after all, assert that the star chamber is just so much history.