U.S. track back to square one in CEO search
Here's the latest on the search for a new chief executive of USA Track & Field:
The federation issued a statement Tuesday that allows a few likely conclusions to be drawn.
1. Stephanie Hightower will not become CEO as long as she remains the top official on the USATF's volunteer board -- which means until her current term as president ends in December, 2012, unless she resigns.
That brings USATF back to the position it maintained early in a search that began with the firing of Doug Logan last September: no board members are candidates to be CEO.
A month ago, CEO search committee chair Steve Miller had told me exclusively it was "very possible'' Hightower could move from board chair to CEO. Such a decision undoubtedly would have drawn a strong negative reaction from the U.S. Olympic Committee, which endured a seven-month reign of error when USOC board member Stephanie Streeter became acting USOC chief executive.
Last October, Hightower said in an interview she was not actively pursuing the CEO job but ``I never say never to anything.''
2. Why might Hightower remain in play?
Tuesday's USATF statement suggested the search committee is not close to finding a successor to Logan.
"We have yet to find a situation where all the pieces fit for both the candidate and USATF,'' Miller said in the statement.
That leaves two temporary solutions, both of which Miller had proposed when I spoke with him.
One is to keep chief operating officer Mike McNees as interim CEO.
The other is to have a board committee act as CEO.
If either is applied through the 2012 Olympics, it would leave Hightower only a few months on her term as president and chair: a perfect time to resign with the promise she would become CEO, the position she apparently wants.
USATF is likely to pick one of those two solutions at its board meeting this weekend in Eugene, Ore. Having a board committee assume leadership seems more likely.
"In Eugene our hope is to determine how we will move forward from a leadership perspective through the 2012 Olympics,'' Miller said in the statement.
3. Various people have told me that some potential CEO candidates have been discomfited by the idea of having Hightower looking over their shoulder.
Tuesday's USATF statement noted 10 candidates had been interviewed, with three becoming finalists. One was University of Oregon track coach Vin Lananna, who turned down the job.
"Vin was interviewed, and we thought he might have been it, but he changed his mind,'' Miller had said to me.
4. Miller insisted to me that the procedure has dragged on so long out of a desire to get it perfect. That is a worthy goal, but one that may be impossible to achieve, given a board that may be getting more fractious and divided as time passes.
The plan had been for the search committee to present the board its choice as CEO this weekend.
For now, USA Track & Field apparently is back to square one.