The following is an email that was sent out today by Chuck Weilgus, the current CEO of USA-Swimming. Read as written, it is clear that the two sides weren’t that far apart on the Athlete Partnership Plan, as we discussed last week. It sounds like a deal will get done sooner, rather than later, and allow our National Team members to continue to train towards the Olympics.
Even more interestingly is what can be read between the lines. The tone of Weilgus’ letter with regard to Coach Mark Schubert, who was recently forced into a 60-day leave of absence, indicates that the APP, and how Schubert handled it, might have had significant influence on Wielgus’ telling the coach to temporarily step aside. The 60-day leave, during which time Schubert is not supposed to have any contact with the National Team athletes, coincindes, perhaps not coincidentally, with the timeline that Wielgus has laid out for the proposal to run the full course of approvals.
The letter does not explicitly state a connection between the two or even mention Schubert’s leave; however, it seems to send a pretty strong message about what Wielgus and new USA-Swimming President Jim Wood feels is best for the National Team program, and that it doesn’t appear to align with Schubert’s feelings on the matter.
FROM: Chuck Wielgus, Executive Director, USA Swimming
RE: ATHLETE PARTNERSHIP PROPOSAL
From what I am being told it appears as though there may be some misunderstandings related the proposed Athlete Partnership Program (APA) that has been in the works for many months now. In an effort to set the record straight, I’ll try to outline for you what has happened and where things are headed. I especially encourage all National Team athletes to read this carefully.
1. The original APA proposal that was developed by the task force led by Michael Lawrence and Trent Staley sought to significantly increase direct funding support to athletes, and in exchange there were requirements attached to receiving the increased funds. The program was also proposed as an “opt-in” rather than as a mandated program, meaning that the decision to accept the increased funding, along with the accompanying requirements, would be left up to each individual athlete.
2. The U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) was extremely supportive of the original proposal and indicated a preliminary willingness to help fund it. The USOC saw the original proposal as a model that could be applied to many other Olympic sports. From the very start, we made it clear that the final approval for the APA was contingent upon the USOC providing at least 50% of the increased financial support; and that these USOC funds would be incremental to other funding that the USOC allocated to the National Team program.
3. Several athletes and their agents raised questions about the proposal, primarily about the need to have a signed partnership agreement. Task force members heard these comments and attempted to lighten the requirements, but recognizing that USOC funding would be essential, the requirement for a signed partnership agreement was left in the proposal.
4. Mark Schubert, Lindsay Mintenko and I were scheduled to meet with USOC staff on July 21 to present USA Swimming’s High Performance Plan, which included the APA proposal.
5. Two nights before our presentation, Coach Schubert informed me that he wanted to significantly change the proposal and eliminate the need for a signed partnership agreement in exchange for the increased funding. I expressed my reservations about this dramatic change to the proposal and suggested that in our presentation to the USOC that we describe the APA as a “work still in progress.” I also agreed to support Coach Schubert in taking the proposal with his changes to the USA Swimming Executive Committee.
6. The APA, with Coach Schubert’s proposed changes, was presented to USA Swimming’s Executive Committee on August 8. The Executive Committee approved the APA with the very explicit understanding that the proposal would require the approval of the full USA Swimming Board of Directors AND that incremental funding would be allocated specifically to the program from the USOC. It was also clearly stated at this meeting that the timeline for these approvals meant that no final decision on the APA’s status would be known until sometime in October or November.
7. The USOC’s enthusiasm for the APA proposal dropped dramatically once they learned the written partnership agreement was being eliminated; and in fact I was informed about two weeks ago that the changed proposal would not be approved.
8. It is my understanding that in the interim Coach Schubert may have conveyed the impression that the APA, with his proposed changes (including the elimination of the written partnership agreement) was a done deal, but I assure you that this was never the case.
9. When the USOC’s position became known, staff and members of the task force crafted a dramatically scaled down proposal for additional funding that was submitted to the USA Swimming Board of Directors on September 14. The board approved this funding request for increased athlete support.
10. On September 17 at the meeting of the National Team Steering Committee in Dallas, I was asked to go back to the USOC and see if they might be willing to reconsider the original proposal. I immediately contacted the USOC and was told that the original proposal – or something close to it – would indeed be welcomed for reconsideration.
11. Knowing that several athletes and their agents might still have issues with some aspects of the written partnership agreement portion of the proposal, task force members, staff, Jim Wood and I have taken a careful look at the requirements, with an eye toward creating greater flexibility and allowing athletes to shift the requirements away from commercial terms in favor of charitable purposes. I think this is an important and noteworthy development because it will allow athletes to fulfill requirements with personal charitable efforts and thus encourage greater citizenship.
12. We are now ready to go back to the USOC with a revised proposal that would almost double the individual funding support for qualifying athletes, and refocus the requirements more toward sport promotion and personal charitable purposes. I personally view this as a significant “win-win” and think everyone is well-served. There is no guarantee that the USOC will accept this revised proposal, but I am at least confident that it will receive very serious consideration.
13. This revised proposal remains as an “opt-in” program for all athletes. Those who “opt-out” can certainly count on having our ear to help us improve the program in the future.
14. Timing is critical. We need to resubmit the proposal immediately. I would expect to hear something back from the USOC in time for presentation to the USA Swimming Board of Directors when it meets on November 21 in New York City; a meeting that will be held in conjunction with this year’s Golden Goggle Awards.
I hope this outline helps to provide you with a better understanding of the actually journey that the APA proposal has traveled these past few months. It is now my intention to present this revised proposal to the USOC, and to also lobby both the USOC and the USA Swimming Board of Directors for its acceptance.